Southern California picks from Angella d’Avignon

Cliff Notes

Each week our regional Cliff Notes columnists Christopher AlamSharon ArnoldDemian DinéYazhi’, and Angella d’Avignon pick the most exciting events and exhibitions on the West Coast.

Martine Syms: Loser Back Home
Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, CA
June 2 to August 26

Martine Sym’s first sprawling solo show at Sprüth Magers uses historian Barbara J. Fields concept of “dysplacement” as the exhibition’s framework to describe the loss of a shared sense of connection to one’s home country or town. Loser Back Home features video work, sculptures, and objects at the Los Angeles location, celebrating the gallery’s representation of the artist. 

Syms is as much a filmmaker in her own right as she is an artist. The Fool (2021), plays on a screen housed in a custom cardboard television box, evoking a feeling of homespun craft a la childhood but also references the aesthetics of houselessness and dysplacement. The Fool fuses footage of gymnastic performances with Baroque paintings, club scenes crossfade into scenes of a day spent at the beach. The images fail the narration, creating another visual sense of displacement, calling into question the nature of reality and memory. Moving blankets drape a slouchy couch, walls are plastered in collaged images while the enormous space at Sprüth is appointed with sculptural and found objects.

Reflection: What is your first known memory of your childhood town and how does it compare to the state it’s in now?

Dominique Knowles: My Beloved
Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles, CA
June 3 to July 22

In 2021, Dominique Knowles’s childhood horse died. My Beloved at Hannah Hoffman is a series of new paintings from the Bahamanian artist who compares the gestures of painting with horse care.

Long strokes meet short breathy punctuations of color in brushy, Rothko-esque compositions. The movement of paintbrush and grooming paddle are the same, where canvas becomes like an equine body. With the interior walls painted tans and camel browns, Knowles incorporates the aesthetics and sentiment of religion, arranging his works like altar paintings transforming the gallery space into a dun-colored and earth toned sanctuary for love and loss. “This framing recalls the loss of his childhood horse,” said Darius Sabbaghzadeh, director of an LA public relations firm.  “Knowles’ work forms a space where both mourning and sacred love can intertwine.”

Muted palettes reflect a connection between the arid earth tread by both foot and hoof and it comes as no surprise that Knowles produced a majority of his artwork in the high desert of Joshua Tree. 

Reflection: What is your favorite animal to touch and why? What’s the texture feel like under your fingertips?

Garage Exchange Vienna—Los Angeles: Plastic, Plastic, Plastic
MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, CA
June 8 to August 6

Full disclosure: I wrote the press release for this show.

Now that I’ve got that confession out of the way, let me pose a thought exercise: Consider the sum of everything you own. Imagine it piled around you all at once. What percentage of your possessions are made from plastic?

In Garage Exchange Vienna—Los Angeles: Plastic, Plastic, Plastic, artists Kerstin von Gabain and Ellen Schafer explore and dissect the contemporary aspect of precarity in day to day living, thrown into stark contrast by the utopian Modern architecture of the Mackey Apartments built by Rudolph Schindler in the 1930s. The architect designed the apartment for a woman named Pearl Mackey with no apparent thought for its future use as an architectural art space.

When you rent, you basically own the interior of a home without the exterior. Schafer and von Gabain consider the global proliferation and subsequent pollution of plastic goods, utensils, hair combs, high chairs, bed pans, and party cups that litter the earth and fill storage units while housing precarity increases almost daily. We are not the objects we consume but rather the paths we tread through spaces anonymous to anyone who treads them in our absence.

Reflection: How much was your first rent payment and where did you live?

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