With blue skies, a warm breeze, and movie stars lurking around every corner, it was hard not to feel at least a bit of a thrill at this year’s edition of Frieze Los Angeles, where a line of sunglasses-wearing VIPs stretched across the Paramount Studios lot, waiting to get into the packed vernissage. So what did dealers bring this year to proffer their cool, budding Hollywood (and Silicon Valley) clientele? Here is a sampling of some of the most absorbing work on view in the aisles.
Father, Son, and… (1969)
Jack Shainman – New York
Price: “Major paintings by Hendricks range from $1.5 million to $5 million”
In his twenties, after graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts but before enrolling at Yale, Barkley Hendricks spent some time working as an arts and crafts teacher for the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, sharing his creativity with members of the community in public parks. During this time—well before he had established his now-famous style of portraiture—he became captivated by the geometries of the basketball hoops he would see on a daily basis, with the rectilinear backboards and round rims mixing in his mind with art history, from hard-edge abstraction to the Renaissance masterpieces he encountered while traveling around Europe in the mid-‘60s.
The paintings that resulted have rarely been seen since—there are a few in private collections, while most are still held by the artist’s estate—but they will now be the subject of a show at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York this May. This devotional twist on the subject, whose rounded contours call to mind the Ghent Altarpiece, is a preview of coming attractions, and a sign that this much-loved artist—who died in 2017—has plenty of unexplored layers to delve into.
Gagosian – worldwide
Price: $5 million
You can’t get more all-American male than Richard Prince’s leering, preening enactions of machismo, from the elliptical pickup lines/brags that he leaves as comments on attractive young women’s Instagram feeds (the subject of his current “portraits” at Gagosian’s LA gallery) to his walloping muscle car anchoring the gallery’s Frieze booth. Simultaneously a sculpture and a painting of a souped-up Ford Mustang—which admirers of the artist’s appropriated cowboy photographs may take as an intertextual horse reference—this extremely cool object would look great parked in the oversized living room of a female studio exec’s Hollywood Hills home. These times call for new drivers behind the wheel.
Study for Joan Portrait (Pulling Tights) (2020)
Société – Berlin
Price: $80,000 to $90,000
With her Oscars performance last week, Billie Eilish’s captivating sensibility—hypersensitive, at once guarded and vulnerable, defiantly self-determined—may have reached its biggest mainstream audience to date. That sensibility—which one might describe as a generational thing—is also alive and well in art, specifically in the work of the artist Bunny Rogers. Known for her queasily surreal, playfully dystopian sculptures, installations, poetry, and performances, Rogers has also for several years been making a kind of self-portraiture using the characters of the short-lived cartoon series “Clone High” (2002–03), which starred angsty young reincarnations of people like Gandhi, Cleopatra, and Abraham Lincoln. For her guise, the artist has adopted the moody goth clone of Joan of Arc.
Having just turned 30, Rogers, who lives in New York with her parents, has evolved her treatments of Joan over time, and now presents her as a digitally rendered object existing in a virtual space, faceless and somewhat forlorn. The artist herself has plenty to be cheerful about, however: for someone so young, she has already built a formidable institutional career, appearing in Performa last year, as well as in the Whitney Museum, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and now, a major survey at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, which includes work relating to an abiding subject of hers, the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. The museum describes the show’s mood as “Stygian.”
We Aim to Live (2018)
Blum & Poe – Los Angeles
The German-born, LA-based artist Friedrich Kunath grew up on the east side of the Berlin Wall and to this day, perhaps relatedly, incorporates a sense of division in his sculptures and paintings—they are both bleak and cheerful, beautiful and horrid, candy-colored and sinister, with a distinctly mordant sense of humor. In his solo booth with Blum & Poe, this sculpture stood out: it seems as if a man has hung himself from a tree with a noose (or tried to) and an elephant has uprooted that tree, carrying it in its trunk as the two walk companionably side-by-side. (The man seems highly appreciative.)
At a time when elephants are being slaughtered at an agonizing rate in Africa—where one female of the species gained heroic stature among some after she fought back, raising a hunter with her trunk and then, after being shot, thrusting him below her to crush him as she died—the notion of an elephant rescuing a human from suicide is a resonant one. It reads as a parable of sorts, perhaps for a moral approach to climate change. Why not let the elephants lead the way?
Risks in Business/The King Checked by the Queen (2019)
Greene Naftali – New York
The tech folks walking around the big Frieze tent this week may have found reason to pause in front of a particularly fascinating artwork by the artist Cory Arcangel. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s love of chess, the piece consists of two video screens that show two AI stealth bots (one named after the inventor of the readymade’s birthday, rendered backwards, the other after his death date) playing a virtual chess match by posting their moves “at” one another in the comment section of prominent Instagram feeds (“@__kxd._7881 Bxc6+” and so on). Played across the accounts of users as diverse as Vladimir Putin, Equinox, Kim Kardashian, Richard Branson, NASCAR, and Daisy Ridley, the game, which was recorded last year, takes approximately 40 minutes and ends when Duchamp’s birthday checkmates its opponents, sealing the victory with a “😘.”
Arcangel, who lives in Stavanger, Norway, and barely uses social media himself (he sticks to Twitter when he does), has been mining the formal qualities of digital culture ever since his breakout Mario Brothers cloud series. But here, he is taking a more active approach by inviting his art to perform itself out there on Instagram—it’s the online equivalent of street art. (Technically, the chess game required the artist to hack Instagram, since bots are usually banned by the platform.) One art advisor was cool on the work, saying that it actually constituted the documentation of a performance and not the performance itself, but that likely won’t prove too much of a hurdle: a cross-section of tech impresarios and VCs are said to be interested in the piece.
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