Five Year Survey curated by Cooper Johnson
In MOAH’s Main Gallery, Five Year Survey, curated by Cooper Johnson features significant Los Angeles painters over the last five years. Its paintings range from socially-conscious figurative works to “pure” abstraction and everything in between. The exhibition exudes pure joy in paint as a material, with thick impasto brushwork, energetic mark-making, and bright, fresh color palettes. But paint isn’t the only material these artists utilize; photography, digital rendering, and printmaking all make their way into the work to break the mold of tradition and subvert expectations of what painting is and means.
Five Year Survey is a cross-section of Los Angeles painting of the last five years, as exemplified by 15 artists who are moving the medium in new directions. Whether the artists of the survey pull from socio-political fray, bend the logic of composition, reinvigorate the mark, or push painting into the digital, all have a command of material and concept that enables multifaceted work. More importantly, their work reflects salient aspects of living in the present moment: an increased awareness of identity, hyper-connectedness and information abundance, and a heightened sensitivity to what is fake and what is real. And in this context, three themes emerge throughout the survey.
First, many of the paintings in the survey address ideas surrounding identity. Taken together, these works suggest how identity can be viewed merely as a construct, but at the same time, the cause of serious issues concerning one’s experience. Something fabricated but nevertheless real. In Five Year Survey, identity is not about our physical features or inherent qualities, but is instead about the meanings we create for them, and store through object, symbol, and mark. And how those meanings, usually with historical and cultural momentum, are imposed, inflicted, or bestowed on each of us. Five Year Survey prompts us to consider not only how these attached meanings affect our day-to-day lives, but the inverse: whether there is something we truly are without our fabrications.
A second theme throughout the survey is the use of paint to confuse how we define and experience what is “real.” Whether approaching the issue from painting’s tradition of illusion or its drift into the digital, these artists manipulate the mind’s natural functions, ranging from base-level sense-making to the desire to treat illusion as real. Artists handle this in a variety of ways in the survey. Objects in a landscape might be simultaneously revealed as staged—mere props in a diorama—but remain cloaked in the illusion of representation. Forms can be ambivalently representative and abstract, trigging the mind’s need to recognize patterns, but denying it certainty. The “space” in a painting may be structured to contain incompatible objects, forcing the mind to reconcile what shouldn’t exist in the same space. Even light itself, painted as textureless and pure as the sublime, lets slight deviations of the hand creep in. These works leave the viewer in seemingly contradictory states: experiencing the painting as “real,” but at the same time, hearing its confessions to the contrary.
Third is the theme of plurality and purity in painting—paintings that do not zero in on any single concept, logic, or style, but are more interested in how different sets of rules can coexist in a single image. As seen over painting’s historical cycles of “purification” (and subsequent complication), narrowing down an image or process to its essence simultaneously constructs rules about the logic of its creation and interpretation. Although this isn’t new, the current trend away from “pure” painting seems to fit in the context of how technologically connected we are—not only do we have increasing access to a broader variety of work, but the role of the traditional gatekeepers is not as critical. In Five Year Survey, for example, this could include: charging geometric abstractions with agency or narrative; imbuing marks with more than the immediate movement or gesture, sometimes even elements of the painter’s identity; distorting the logic of the painting’s creation; nesting disparate styles within each other; or ironically adopting the rules of previous styles but conceptually contributing to them nonetheless.
While Five Year Survey has no unifying concept, these three themes have similar analytical structures that inflect on, resonate with, and map onto the others. Whether it is our identity, our reality, or our rules of constructing images, the survey asks the viewer to explore the relationships we have with our own fabrications—the extent to which they only exist because we created them, and the extent to which we are nevertheless bound to them.
DAVID ALLAN PETERS
David Allan Peters creates work that explodes with countless layers of color and intricate texture, combining painting with sculptural hand-carved qualities. Diamonds, grids and circles create kaleidoscopic compositions that vibrantly explore geometry, intuition and chance. He has become known for his innovative process of building up material which is then peeled and cut away exposing what is below the initial surface, unveiling various colors at different depths. Peters sometimes works for 15 years on a single painting, painstakingly applying layer upon layer of acrylic paint and then cutting, scraping, sanding and carving into the layers to show the passage of time similar to the rings of a tree trunk. From the by-products of his paintings, Peters recycles the carved-out remnants into bricks forming minimalist installations. He pushes the limits of acrylic paint and the traditional painting processes, while dissolving the boundary between the second and third dimension.
Rooted in the history of early West Coast abstraction, the genesis of Peters’ career was inspired by the dense layers found in other abstract artists such as Jay DeFeo. Continuously experimenting with pattern and diverse techniques, David Allan Peters’ latest body of work explores both the bold designs of Native American textiles and post-painterly, geometric abstractions. Peters received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont Graduate University following his undergraduate at the Art Institute in San Francisco.The artist has been featured in WhiteWall magazine’s profile on the Anderson Collection as well as the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, the New York Times and an artist profile in Elle Decor.
Site Specific Installation
Site-specific installation Infinite Love/Flesh and Blood by Erika Lizée spans three floors in the MOAH atrium. Erika Lizée uses trompe l’oeil and sculptural acrylic painting to create images that seem to “react” to the actual light and shadows of the space in which they reside. Her magically biomorphic installations are strange yet familiar, and seem to recede behind the gallery wall and reach out toward the viewer simultaneously. Lizée imagines the wall surface as a symbolic threshold between different realms or states of existence. She is also inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a tale of human perception and how our perceptions and experiences shape our personal reality.
“The visionary function, which fulfills the soul’s need for placing itself in the vast scheme of things, has been suppressed, with the result that as a culture, we have lost the gift of vision,” states Lizée. She believes there is a “universal and ever-present urge for transcendence, for going beyond the mundane to experience the sublime. I hope to provide such an otherworldly experience.”
Lizée’s recent body of work is based on her studies of the numbers 1 through 10 as well as sacred geometry. Infinite Love/Flesh and Blood at MOAH is inspired by the number 8, with visual references to the shape of the clematis flower, oxygen (the 8th element on the periodic table), musical octaves (there are eight notes in an octave) and the infinity symbol (which looks like a number “8”). Raised in a family of four and now having her own family of four, the number eight holds great symbolic power for Lizée as she reflects on love and life.
Erika Lizée earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting from the University of North Carolina Asheville and her Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting from California State University Northridge. She is currently a tenured professor at Moorpark College and the Director of the Moorpark College Art Gallery.
A Visual Game of “Telephone” 49 works of art created by 49 contemporary artists in absolute secrecy over a period of nine years.
Laura Hipke and painter Shane Guffogg’s curatorial project Circle of Truth in the South Gallery is comprised of works by Ed Ruscha, Shane Guffogg, Billy Al Bengston, Lita Albuquerque, Jim Morphesis, Charles Arnoldi, Robert Williams, Ruth Weisberg and 41 other artists in a modern, visual take on a common childhood game “Telephone”. The Circle of Truth project opens a dialog regarding the nature of what is considered “truth”, and the inherent flaws of receiving and re-transmitting information from one person to the next.
The process for the Circle of Truth project was simple: the first painting, created by Shane Guffogg, was delivered to a second artist in the Circle along with a blank canvas. The second artist was instructed to find the “truth” in the first painting and respond with their own creation. That painting was then passed on to the next artist. As a rule, each artist was asked to keep their participation a secret until the project was completed.
Circle of Truth, launched in 2009, was completed in 2016 and includes paintings by 49 different participating artists, all of which come from a variety of backgrounds and utilize painting styles ranging from hyper-realism to pure abstraction. The paintings will be hung in chronological order so visitors can see the progression of the “truth” over time.
Each artist was also asked to write an essay about their experience. Excerpts of the essays will be available in the exhibition catalogue titled Circle of Truth (available for purchase at MOAH) and can be autographed during the book-signing on September 7 at 1 p.m.
Kaye Freeman in collaboration with Amy KapsThe Anatomy of a Painting
Kaye Freeman in Collaboration with Amy Kaps: The Anatomy of a Painting, examines the performative act of applying paint while expanding the painting plane to include the Museum’s entire East Gallery. Kaps’ role as curator quickly morphed into that of cohort, catalyst and collaborator when she asked artist Kaye Freeman to participate in creating the immersive painting installation. Together, they explore the body in relation to the process and product of painting.
The curatorial vision for The Anatomy of a Painting is to tell the story of “creation” from the artist’s point of view using Freeman’s bright color palette and intuitive brush marks. Inspired by Yves Klein’s Anthropometries, Freeman paints directly on Kaps’ nude body, using the human form as a mark-making tool. The installation is made complete with a performance by Amy Kaps in which she walks around the gallery as viewers tear pieces of artwork off her dress, gradually revealing a satin under-dress embellished with body prints, black and white photographs and gestural brush-strokes by Freeman.
Kaye Freeman uses painting and drawing to “fold and unfold the myths that surround us like a cosmic origami”. Memories and shared emotions weave through her paintings, abstracted and reshaped again and again until an ineffable common humanity and truth is revealed. Kaye Freeman was born in Hong Kong, raised in downtown Tokyo and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. She has shown in solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia and southern California.
Amy Kaps is an interdisciplinary artist in constant dialogue with her surroundings and those who inhabit it. Possessing a predilection for the abstract and surreal while emphasizing the human form and condition, she presents a psychological puzzle hoping to entice the viewer to question what they see. Kaps is a past Artist-in-Residence at the Museum of Art and History and completed a major installation at MOAH:CEDAR in 2018. She has worked in the realms of performance, installation, video, photography, music and words in the United States, Germany, Cuba and Spain. She currently lives in Venice, California.
Selections from the Permanent Collection
Selected highlights from Lancaster Museum of Art and History’s (MOAH) permanent collection are on display throughout LA Painting. The mission of the permanent collection is to celebrate the rich creative culture and history of southern California. As the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, we place great importance on being good stewards of the art of its collection by preserving and displaying artworks for the enjoyment and education of the public. MOAH emphasizes the support of emerging and established local artists that are significant to our region’s unique cultural perspective. Highlights from the permanent collection include works by:
Craig “Skibs” Barker
Billy Al Bengston
The Clayton Brothers