Whitehot Magazine

Highlights of Frieze Los Angeles

Zwirner, Booth E2. Installation view. Courtesy of the gallery.

Frieze Los Angeles

Santa Monica Airport 

February 16 through 19, 2023 

By LITA BARRIE, February 2023 

The fourth edition of Frieze Los Angeles at Santa Monica Airport attracted a huge crowd of collectors, curators, critics, artists, celebrities and art devotees, who traveled from around the world to view the celebrated art fair’s international mix of superstar artists and the most dynamic emerging artists. With over 120 top galleries from 22 countries, the sprawling art fair occupied two large structures, and had 30 percent more exhibitors than last year. This included sections like Focus (for galleries under 12 years old), Spotlight (for rare solo presentations), and an expansive program of artists’ projects. Galleries, collectors and auction houses also threw parties, dinners and events surrounding Frieze Week that contributed to making L.A - which has the fastest growing gallery scene in the world right now - the place to see art and be seen. Of the many impressive booths at Frieze L.A., six stood out:

Zwirner, Booth E2

This magnificent presentation features stunning new paintings by Michaël Borremans and Dana Schutz, along with significant paintings by Lisa Yuskavage from 2005 - 2015. Borremans’s charged canvases explore universal themes using a contemporary surrealist and figurative style that combines beauty with absurdity and a strong conceptual basis. Schutz's mysterious compositions combine figuration and abstraction in complex visual narratives often depicting figures in seemingly impossible, enigmatic, or invented scenarios that convey complicated psychological states and ambiguities. Yuskavage’s formally inventive paintings of introspective characters complicate viewership because they have dual roles of subject and object. She combines realism and abstraction in fantastical compositions using color my as the main determinant of meaning. 

L.A Louver, Booth G10. Edward and and Nancy Kienholz, 'My Country 'tis of Thee'. Courtesy of the Gallery.

L.A. Louver, Booth G10

This historically important presentation of rare works by legendary artists Edward and Nancy Kienholz, aptly titled American Exceptionalism, showcases assemblage sculptural works and immersive tableaux created between 1961 and 2008 which are powerful aesthetic criticisms of American ideology, society, and government. In a human-scale assemblage, Potlatch (1988), a deer-headed Chef Seattle figure stands behind a table which is surrounded by photographs of Native Americans, and this serves as a metaphor for the theft and genocide suffered by indigenous peoples. In My Country ’Tis of Thee (1991), four politicians humorously dressed in suit jackets without trousers, circle a pork barrel. An American flag flies above the figures in a tongue-in-cheek reference to government profiteering.

Roberts Projects, Booth C12. Installation view. Courtesy of the gallery.

Roberts Project, Booth C12

This thoughtful presentation includes impressive paintings by Kehinde Wiley, Amoako Boafo, Betye Saar, Daniel Crews-Chubb, Lenze Geerk, Jeffrey Gibson, Mia Middleton, Collins Obijiake, Otis Kwame, Kye Quaicoe and Brenna Youngblood. These artists explore portraiture as a social practice using a diverse range of styles, subjects and strategies to broaden the spectrum of stories and understanding of diasporic cultures portrayed in contemporary art. The poignant depictions of their communities, family and friends shows that for these artists, portraiture is an important agent for social change, and can inspire a deeper perception of racial identities.

Vielmetter Los Angeles, Booth B14. Installation view. Courtesy of the gallery.

Vielmetter Los Angeles, Booth B14

This humorously paired presentation includes glazed ceramic sculptures by Arlene Shechet and graphite figurative drawings by Nicola Tyson. Shechet’s gravity-defying sculptures seem to contort, tilt, bend and melt. They appear to be set in motion even while static. Her work embraces the duality of clay which is malleable yet holds still, and fragile yet strong, conveying the humor and pathos of bodily existence. Tyson describes her work as “psycho-figuration” because her misshapen figures have unexpected proportions. These amusingly freakish, androgynous figures are beyond gender identification, yet they have an obstinate individuality even without detailed faces.  

Stars, Booth F11

In the Los Angeles in Focus section, Stars pairs photographs by Clifford Prince King with sculptures by Andres Monzon. King’s elusive photographs, Acts of Service, seem to have been photographed in a past era. The black men dressed in historical costumes are seen performing grooming tasks and serving tea. These intimate photographs honor previous generations who performed service for others often unworthy of their care. Two of Monzon’s pyramidal sculptures are from the artist’s ongoing series, Bodegon - named after the still-life tradition associated with Spanish painting - that reference the way goods travel around South America and end up stacked in markets. These sculptures draw upon ancient metalwork from the North Andean region, where artisans welded parts together to create an effect of weightlessness. Three sensuous, curvilinear molded sculptures are coated in nail polish to integrate a culturally feminine cosmetic with references to artifacts from the Tumac-La Tolita region.

Murmurs, Booth F10. Scuplture by Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya. Courtesy of the Gallery.

Murmurs, Booth F10

Also in the Los Angeles in Focus section, Murmurs presents elegantly crafted new sculptures by Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya. These evocative artworks are chimeras of contemporary mythology, inspired by the artist’s experience of growing up near a toxic landfill in New Mexico. The surreal creatures are shaped by the detritus that seeps into their bodies, forcing them to adapt into new forms and develop unique powers. They reference Alebrijes, from oneiric worlds in Mexican folk art. A large centaur figure guides souls to the afterlife, and smaller sculptures represent nascent “souls” of imaginary creatures, created from found material including silicone-drenched clothing and plexiglass shards and sequins. These magical sculptures suggest parallels between land, humans, and animals through an exploration of the anthologies and social issues of border culture. WM

Lita Barrie

Lita Barrie is a freelance art critic based in Los Angeles. Her writing appears in Hyperallergic, Riot Material, Apricota Journal, Painter’s Table, ArtnowLA, HuffPost, Painter’s Table, Artweek.L.A, art ltd and Art Agenda. In the 90s Barrie wrote for Artspace, Art Issues, Artweek, Visions andVernacular. She was born in New Zealand where she wrote a weekly newspaper art column for the New Zealand National Business Review and contributed to The Listener, Art New Zealand, AGMANZ, ANTIC, Sites and Landfall. She also conducted live interviews with artists for Radio New Zealand’s Access Radio. Barrie has written numerous essays for art gallery and museum catalogs including: Barbara Kruger (National Art Gallery New Zealand) and Roland Reiss ( Cal State University Fullerton). Barrie taught aesthetic philosophy at Claremont Graduate University, Art Center and Otis School of Art and Design. In New Zealand, Barrie was awarded three Queen Elizabeth 11 Arts Council grants and a Harkness grant for art criticism. Her feminist interventions are discussed in The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand and an archive of her writing is held in The New Zealand National Library, Te Puna Matauranga Aotearoa.

view all articles from this author