20 Year Anniversary Exhibition
This year, Vielmetter Los Angeles celebrates its 20th anniversary. We are pleased to acknowledge this milestone with a two-part exhibition, the first iteration of which opens July 18, 2020. It is with the greatest sense of gratitude that we look at the past two decades to see how the gallery has developed and grown. This transformation has happened against all expectations and despite the founding tenets of the gallery, which remain as central to the gallery’s work today as they were 20 years ago. These tenets rest on a deep commitment to challenge the parameters that define which art is shown and to question the value systems we apply to art and to many other areas of cultural production.
This first iteration of the exhibition includes works by artists currently represented and those who have shown with the gallery in the past. Because of the gallery’s focus on a diverse range of voices, it is impossible to bring the works in this exhibition together under a comprehensive thematic umbrella. While many of the works presented here are reflections on this current moment of crisis, others offer relief and escape from it. What unites the artists in this exhibition is their critical contribution to the vision and the personality of the gallery.
Included in the exhibition are works by Laura Aguilar, Nick Aguayo, Edgar Arceneaux, Math Bass, Whitney Bedford, Andrea Bowers, Sarah Cain, Patty Chang, Kim Dingle, Sean Duffy, Genevieve Gaignard, Liz Glynn, Karl Haendel, Stanya Kahn, Hayv Kahraman, Raffi Kalenderian, Mary Kelly, Dave McKenzie, Rodney McMillian, Shana Lutker, Wangechi Mutu, Ruben Ochoa, Pope.L, Deborah Roberts, Steve Roden, Arlene Shechet, John Sonsini, Amy Sillman, Stephanie Schneider, Monique Van Genderen, Tam Van Tran, Esther Pearl Watson, Patrick Wilson. Integrated into the exhibition as a “hidden” space is an immersive installation by Sean Duffy, entitled “Alone Now”.
Laura Aguilar's first solo exhibition at Vielmetter Los Angeles in March 2000 featured Aguilar's radical self-portraits of her body in the landscape. The work Nature Self-Portrait #7 on display here was included in this exhibition.
Edgar Arceneaux has worked in a wide range of mediums including drawing, video, sculpture, and performance over the past two decades. For this exhibition Arceneaux presents a new work from a recent series of combine paintings — In Between The Steps #1 consists of random, single shoes filled with weeds and branches, burned and mounted on white canvas, evoking the endless march for civil rights, the profound crisis of family separation, as well as entropy in nature and urban degradation. Arceneaux’s first exhibition with the gallery Rootlessness was in 2002.
Math Bass is an LA-based artist who recently joined the gallery’s roster and will have their first solo exhibition with Vielmetter in November 2020. A bold and bright painting from the artist’s ongoing Newz! series is included in the exhibition — exemplifying the artist’s graphic vocabulary of symbols and suggestive forms that provoke multiplicities of recognition, movement, discovery, and meaning.
Whitney Bedford's most recent series of landscape paintings, all titled Veduta, combines her own interpretations of sublime paintings of past pastoral landscapes with carefully drawn assemblies of cacti, succulents, and other dry- climate flora. Her new painting, Veduta (Church / Rainbow), 2020 continues this exploration. Bedford's first solo exhibition with the gallery was in 2009.
Andrea Bowers' new works on found cardboard combines drawings of sycamore leaves with quotes from European eco-feminists, describing the entanglement of the politics of feminism and ecological justice. Bowers began making works on layered supports of found cardboard following the Occupy movement in response to the economic crash of 2008. The first of these works were shown in her Vielmetter Los Angeles solo show Help the Work Along in 2012. Her first exhibition with the gallery was in 2007.
Patty Chang's video Hand to Mouth (2000) shows the artist, in a series of different wigs, being fed water from a series of helium filled balloons. As the water covers her face, Chang yells increasingly ecstatically: "Come on give it to me, more, more, more..." Chang is an artist working in performance, video, and installation. This video was exhibited at the gallery in 2007 as part of Chang's solo show Hand to Mouth.
Kim Dingle’s first exhibition with the gallery, Yipes, opened in 2017. Dingle’s practice comprises primarily of painting and sculpture and she often works in series. For this exhibition we are including two paintings from her series “for the occasion should the current president drop dead”, a compliation of paintings of red dresses and nod to Cher’s line in “Moonstruck”: “In time you'll drop dead and I'll come to your funeral in a red dress!”.
Sean Duffy’s first exhibition with the gallery, Greatest Hits, Volume II, opened in 2003. Duffy’s practice is engaged in a postmodern practice of recycling, reworking, and re-contextualizing found material. His installation Alone Now is a site- specific installation which is both an experimental self-portrait and commentary on the symbolic nature of the garage as a site of masculine creativity. Inspired by the history of assemblage in California, Duffy’s installation transforms objects he might have otherwise cast aside to accumulate into a 3-dimensional lexicon of his own artistic journey. The labyrinth- like installation is tinged with an unsettling feeling of an abandoned space that has the evidence of human touch but has for an unknown reason been left to collect dust.
Nicole Eisenman's first exhibition at the gallery, A show born of fear, opened in 2007. Eisenman's practice encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking. For this exhibition, we are sharing some of our favorite lithographs by the artist.
Genevieve Gaignard’s first exhibition at the gallery I’m Sorry I Never Told You That You’re Beautiful, opened in 2019. Gaignard’s diptych Men Talk of Killing Time, While Time Quietly Kills Them, 2020 juxtaposes found images of Malcolm X peering out of a curtained window, flanked by two children, and an image of a clock advertisement describing the model “G-E Clansmen” as “America’s favorite kitchen clock”. The images allude to a deep sense of anxiety as Malcolm X and the children look outwards. Gaignard’s dexterity is evidenced in her ability to re-frame these vintage images so that they unmistakably connect America’s history with its present turmoil.
Liz Glynn's Panic Dress '23, 2020 refers to Weimar Germany's period of hyperinflation, where cash was so devalued it would take a wheelbarrow full to purchase a loaf of bread and had more value as a material from which to make clothing than as a currency. Rendered in silk-screened muslin with aqua resin and fiberglass, the dress hangs voluminous, absent a wearer. Glynn who often explores types of economies and moments of political crisis in her work opened her first exhibition with the gallery, Emotional Capital in November 2019.
Karl Haendel's new text-based drawing, How Long Will it be Until I'm Forgotten, 2020 delves into the darker anxieties of our current moment, plumbing the unanswerable questions about what will happen after he dies. Haendel's first exhibition with the gallery Sir Ernest Shackelton and All The Clocks in My House was in 2010.
Stanya Kahn's portraits of young women in protest t-shirts celebrate the role of youth in leading social uprisings. Both poetic and disturbing, the messages imprinted on the shirts stand in stark contrast with the hopeful and unfettered expressions of the young people who wear them. Kahn's first solo exhibition with the gallery, It's Cool, I'm Good was in 2010.
Raffi Kalenderian’s first solo show with the gallery Currents, Undercurrents, and Maneuvers opened in 2012. Kalenderian is primarily a portrait painter with an emphasis on the psychological state of his sitters, usually friends and family. For this exhibition Kalenderian has included three new works in pastel on paper which continue his interest in using color and patterning to accentuate the psychological charge of his subjects and their environments.
Hayv Kahraman's new painting, Anti-Body #2, 2020 responds to the language of infectious disease and its parallels to the language of war, invasion, and xenophobia. The merging, contorting female figures at the center of the composition inhabit a field of dripping paint, moving in several directions. Her first exhibition with the gallery Silence is Gold was in 2018.
Mary Kelly's World on Fire Timeline, 2020 combines her signature dryer lint works with collage to trace a personal and political history beginning in 1949 with the Soviet Union's development of an atomic bomb through to the Climate Crisis in the present. The work combines personal and political facts in a way that is ultimately non-linear and circuitous, reflecting the subjective process of remembering. Kelly's first exhibition with the gallery, Circa Trilogy, was in 2016.
For the last several years, Shana Lutker's sculptural work has been intertwined with her research into the physical and intellectual fights of the Surrealists. The sculpture on view here is composed of two plates of mirrored steel, cut into the shape of hands. The plates intersect to form free-standing 3-dimensional sculptures from 2-dimensional shapes. Lutker often uses mirrored steel in her work, interested in how this material incorporates the sculpture's surroundings and the viewer into the work. Her first show with the gallery H.Y.S.T. et al. was in 2010.
Dave McKenzie creates videos, performances, installations, and objects that examine the inner workings of contemporary culture and attempt to understand how it structures our desires and beliefs. His video Edward and Me, 2000 shows the artist performing a series of energetic movements in front of the entrance of a grocery store; he almost appears to be in a fistfight with himself. The title refers to the movie Fight Club (1999) in which the actor Edward Norton plays a character with dissociative personality disorder who regularly beats himself bloody.
Rodney McMillian's work explores the complex and fraught connections between history and contemporary culture, not only as they are expressed in American politics, but also as they are manifest in American modernist art traditions. two Suns, 2016 comes from an ongoing series of landscape paintings, made from latex paint poured onto bedsheets and blankets purchased at thrift and consignment shops. These works incorporate an examination of the history of the land that comprises the United States--the violence and exploitation that have soaked into its soil alongside an examination of the site of the bed and the economics of the private sphere (most of the sheets and blankets retain their price tags.) Responding to the absence of the body in the history of landscape painting, McMillian's landscapes eschew the sublime in favor of a bodily perspective. McMillian's first exhibition with the gallery ellipses... was in 2003.
Wangechi Mutu's work in all media engages a critique of gender and racial politics that is imbued with power, poetics, and fantastic imagery. Her new work, I am speaking, Can you hear me?, 2020 pairs two busts, each with an exaggerated ear (one made from a jaw bone, the other from a large shell,) their bodies rendered from a combination of paper pulp, charcoal, and other organic materials, balanced atop two tall, leggy steel pedestals. Their forms twist toward one another, such that the figures appear locked in a deeply connected dialog. Mutu's recent sculptural work reimagines modes of representation and considers profound relationships between the body and the natural world.
Ruben Ochoa’s first exhibition with the gallery A Recurring Amalgamation opened in 2007. Ochoa’s site-specific work for this exhibition continues his practice of disrupting architectural environments to expose underlying social fissures. #FTP responds to calls to defund the police, to stop police brutality, and to demand justice for those killed by the police. #FTP is a very direct piece but it is also open-ended and invites endless possibilities of interpretation. Perhaps someone will think of the immigrants detained and caged by ICE and say Free The People, or one might think about our upcoming election (Fuck The President), America’s history (Fuck The Pilgrims) or simply perceive this work as For The People.
Pope.L is an artist whose work resists easy categorization. His diverse practice encompasses painting, drawing, performance, video, street actions, installation, theater, sculpture, and writing. Engaged in iterative, social, formal and performative strategies to explore systems, race, gender and nationalisms, his work is most often indeterminate and fertile, provoking further questions rather than easy resolution. As in these Trophies c. 2007, Pope.L often uses readily available, socially symbolic materials like peanut butter, pop tarts, mayonnaise, and bologna in his works. Organic materials, like peanut butter and mayonnaise, when used in paintings, drawings and sculptures can refer back to their affordability and ubiquity as well as to their relative vulnerability in time. These plush animals, pinned to boards and smeared in peanut butter depict an abject state of things composed from objects and materials both cute and familiar.
Deborah Roberts’s first exhibition with the gallery Native Sons: Many thousands gone opened in 2019. Roberts is a collage virtuoso known for her poignant figurative depictions of Black girls and boys. Her characters are usually presented in poses both active and passive, restraint but signaling gestures of defiance and strength.
Steve Roden’s first exhibition with the gallery The Silent World, opened in 2003. Roden’s work for the exhibition metal mettle metal mettle, 2020 is a new diptych in which he incorporates collage elements into his abstract painterly gestures that in the past have usually been connected to language or sounds based systems. The impetus for this new work came from Roden’s experience during the initial stay at home order – he began to create small collages and mailed them to friends to connect and to see how they were doing. The work in the exhibition is a larger composition that resulted from these small gestures.
Stephanie Schneider’s first exhibition with the gallery opened in 2000. Schneider’s photographs have a cinematic quality intensified by her usage of expired polaroid film. In the 1990s when Schneider started using this technique, Polaroid was dying out and digital photography just started to become relevant, later flooding our everyday life with Instagram filters on our phones. Her insistence on using this format emphasizes a narrative quality in her work that is effective in portraying the complexities of The American Dream as an (unachievable) goal, that many of her figures seem to long for.
Arlene Shechet has forged a singular path as an artist. Her sculptures in ceramic, wood, metal, and other materials combine “universal” formal concerns with the intensely personal, deeply felt, and politically opinionated. Her new work Cure, 2020 combines a brightly glazed ceramic polyhedron, embraced by a carved and painted black piece of wood, balanced atop a slice of a steel I-Beam. Related to a series of works from her first show with the gallery in 2019 that suggested a visual analogy to architectural models of modernist buildings, Cure is a structure that does not suggest the possibility of an interior. It's interlocking geometries, combined with its title, also suggest the functional possibility of a cure for what ails, of finding something that fits just so into those spaces where absence or need is felt most acutely.
Amy Sillman's new paintings of petunias and of abstractions on paper created during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the artist has not had access to her studio, reflect the necessity of making art, even and perhaps especially in the face of profoundly uncertain and difficult circumstances. As in other of Sillman's recent works on paper, "the shapes pile up" and compositions are determined both within the works and between them, as they stretch out horizontally on the wall, somewhat like words in a sentence or vowels and consonants in a word. Amy Sillman’s first solo exhibition with the gallery was in 2002.
John Sonsini’s first exhibition with the gallery Cowboy Stories & New Paintings opened in early 2020. His work for this exhibition is a portrait of his longtime partner Gabriel whom he has done previous extensive portrait series of in the past.
Monique Van Genderen’s Van Genderen’s new painting for this exhibition is emblematic of her practice. Van Genderen creates self-consciously aesthetic abstractions that constantly oscillate between painted and printed, spontaneous and pre-fabricated gestures. Including large faux brushstrokes, exaggerated drips and loosely arranged roller marks, she challenges the historical importance of the lyrical brushstroke. Van Genderen’s first exhibition with the gallery opened in 2011.
For this exhibition, Tam Van Tran has included a new ceramic vessel, Divination Jar I, 2020. Substantially larger than most of his previous ceramic works, it displays masterfully applied glazes and aquatic shapes that form are circular narrative on the body of the vessel. Tam Van Tran’s first exhibition with the gallery Beetle Manifesto opened in 2002.
Esther Pearl Watson’s first exhibition with the gallery, entitled Tire Universe, opened in 2018. Her work riffs on her upbringing in rural Texas in her family’s economically precarious. Watson’s painting for this exhibition, The Strangeness Zone, 2020, depicts a floating spaceship above a defunct arcade. Referring to her father’s obsession with flying saucers and his conviction that these devices would at some point guarantee the future of transportation, these spaceships take up an important presence in Watson’s oeuvre.
Patrick Wilson is an abstract painter and perceptualist, whose idiosyncratic work hails from past California movements such as Hard Edge and Light and Space, while constantly considering the ever-changing contemporary landscape. Wilson’s paintings, often caught in a zone between extreme physical precision and optical ambiguity, emote a feeling of playful curiosity combined with a slow sense of movement. Disrupted Grid (Red) is from a small group of paintings where the artist considers the illusion of stability, whether architectural, economic, socio-political, or health-related, and if the illusion of stability is perhaps a necessary element for daily functionality. Wilson’s first exhibition with the gallery was in 2001.
In conclusion, Susanne Vielmetter is sharing some reflections on the first twenty years of the gallery: In January 2000, when I opened the doors of the gallery for the first time, the work that was being highlighted by the most prominent galleries in Los Angeles reflected the discourse of an astoundingly narrow cultural group. I felt this was starkly at odds with the incredibly rich and culturally layered reality that I experienced here. It seemed to be a strangely inaccurate representation of the city’s vibrant art community and a missed opportunity to bring attention to the wide range of powerful voices from the different cultural contexts Los Angeles had to offer. As a result, the gallery’s main goal at that time was not to find the best or most successful artists, because I didn’t trust the parameters according to which those categories were defined. Rather, the goal was to invite artists from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to bring their practices and viewpoints to the gallery. The hope was that this would lead not only to a much richer and more complex cultural experience, but that this approach would disturb the ingrained hierarchies prevalent in the Los Angeles art world and beyond. What has remained at the heart of the gallery until today is this need to question the metrics by which artists are valuated and to challenge the hierarchies we bring to art and to most other areas of cultural life.
We acknowledge that we have a lot of work still to do, that in fact this work will never be finished. This year, we invite you to celebrate what the gallery has accomplished so far.