It’s July in Los Angeles, and as every hokey reality television show portrays, the beach beckons. I pass barefoot teenagers hustling toward the Venice promenade, Boogie boards in tow, and a motley crew of sand-encrusted terriers out for a midday stroll. My hands are already sticky from the brined air as I reach for the door of L.A. Louver—a gallery that has been situated in this coastal borough since 1975 but that still prioritizes the production of exhibitions reflective of industry sea change. The Rogue Wave series is the hallmark of the gallery’s investment in currents beyond those of the water, aiming to tease out the trends, techniques, and aesthetics of art made in Los Angeles at present. Now in its fifth installment, Rogue Wave 2013 features fifteen local artists—an ambitious survey curated by Chief Preparator Christopher Pate and Founding Director Peter Goulds—who are diverse in media but comparable in their collective interest in a process-driven practice. From painterly abstraction to durational photography, the vast majority of works in Rogue Wave 2013 substantiate the claim that Los Angeles houses an ever-rising tide of emerging talent.
Arguably, not all of the featured artists in the exhibition are expressly rogue, but it is this intersection of nascent and esteemed careers that gives Rogue Wave its significance. Recent MFA graduates are placed in conversation with artists collected by dozens of public institutions, yet commonalities in both concept and process can easily be extrapolated: forbearance is at risk, instant gratification is fruitless, and social cognizance is not synonymous with unedited dissemination. We can all agree that our ideas about time are becoming increasingly disparate as technology and globalism march forward, a concern manifested through the equally diverse paintings, drawings, installations, photographs, and sculptures installed throughout the gallery’s exhibition space. Though each artist in the exhibition affords a valuable contribution to this analysis, I found particular resonance with the work from five particular artists: Sarah Awad, Matthew Brandt, Asad Faulwell, Owen Kydd, and Eric Yahnker.
Awad’s voluptuous, harlequin forms deliver us to a fauvist yesteryear—rife with the sensory romanticism of loose curves and capricious brushstrokes. Her figures are paused in heedless repose, as if wholly engrossed in the finer details of their physicality and being. A sharp contrast to the contemporary desire for uniformity and idealism, Awad’s women appear at peace with their vulnerability—creating a kind of epicurean mood that is both alluring and intimidating.
During a period in which haste is king, Brandt actively works toward deceleration. He is process-oriented to the point of complete absorption—in the most literal sense. Brandt’s images of lakes and reservoirs appear as scorched or hallucinatory landscapes, a result achieved by submerging his C-prints in the water pulled from the depicted pool itself. In Brandt’s hands, the subject becomes the material as well as the procedure, resulting in sublime abstractions that bespeak a performative aspect to his technique, as well as the human act of recollection.
Faulwell’s intricate portraiture of female freedom fighters from the 1950s and 1960s are obsessively elaborate in their detail. An amalgamation of the textures and patterns found in Moroccan textiles, mosaics, and embroidery, Faulwell’s radiant embellishment serves as a stark contrast to the ghostly, hollow-eyed women he renders. His frenetic ornamentation celebrates their unheralded magnificence, at once paying homage to both their complex political affiliations and the popular expectations of feminine domestic craftsmanship. By immortalizing their narratives in ornate acrylic paint, paper, and pins, Faulwell conjures a past that delineates an eerily topical present.
In an adept fusion of new media art and early still life photography, Kydd’s durational photographs deny the stagnant nature of the archival. Presented on digital monitors, Kydd’s still-life compositions capture movement at a nearly indiscernible pace, giving a subtle illusive quality to everyday objects. Requiring the rapt attention and focus of the viewer, Kydd’s work challenges the increasingly dismissive and impatient nature of our modern culture, thus reactivating the tradition of mindful art viewing and intellectual presence.
Yahnker’s faithful (but comically warped) colored pencil reproductions of historical and pop-cultural icons hide a bitter pill just beneath a deliciously farcical surface. Of the two works featured in this exhibition, Epiphany (The King Grabs Crotch) (2013) feels astutely apropos; a midthrust Michael Jackson seamlessly interjected into Jacob Jordaens’s seventeenth-century Flemish baroque painting, The King Drinks. Surrounded by unruly and voracious guests of a bygone Christmas feast, the self-declared “King of Pop” appears a simultaneously glorified and tragic monarch—a testament to how quickly the unforgiving tides of popular reverence can turn. Perhaps it is this sentiment that is most shrewdly evident in Rogue Wave 2013, be it clearly delineated or hinted at with an elegant minimalism. The ebb and flow of demand and critical proclamation may prove tempestuous, but the artists featured in this exhibition prove that with enough creative perseverance, one can stay afloat long enough to see the horizon. For Angelenos, it looks quite promising.
Rogue Wave is on view at L.A. Louver through August 23, 2013.