Archive for the photo essays Category

Rafa Esparza with Sebastian Hernandez, no water under the bridge, Fourth Street viaduct, March 15, 2014

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary on March 19, 2014 by Carol Cheh

Rafa Esparza - no water under the bridge 001a

This past Saturday was a spectacular day for venturing outdoors to see art. Two major sculptural installations were unveiled in the late afternoon — Michael Parker’s The Unfinished at the L.A. River, and Finishing School’s We Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust on the Occidental College campus. But before that, Rafa Esparza enacted the first of two offsite performances planned to coincide with his solo exhibition at Vincent Price Art Museum.

no water under the bridge was performed under the bridge at Fourth and Lorena Streets in East L.A. This iconic viaduct, which has been used as a location in several popular films dealing with gang violence, provided a dramatic, sweeping, auditorium-like setting for Esparza’s performance, conducted in collaboration with artist Sebastian Hernandez.

Hernandez, who is also an Aztec dancer, performed a native dance in full costume while Esparza quietly responded to his movements in the background. This involved a number of actions that included the shedding of a significant amount of blood. Bundles of flowers were strategically hung in the performance area prior to the start of the dance, and taken down at its conclusion. This beautiful and wrenching ceremony lasted for almost two hours.

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Confusion Is Sex #3, Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, organized by Dino Dinco, Dawn Kasper and Oscar Santos, August 3, 2013

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary with tags , on August 5, 2013 by Carol Cheh

Confusion Is Sex 3 018a

Last December, about 40 acres of forest were suddenly cut down by the US Army Corps of Engineers in an alleged attempt to preserve public safety. According to cryptic statements made by the USACE, the lush trees and brush, home to countless wildlife species, were razed because they had been harboring gay cruisers and homeless people. This was done without the consent of any other relevant parties, and has provoked the ire of state officials and environmentalists alike.

What an ingenious, and highly challenging, spot to hold an afternoon of site-specific, gender-queering performances by over 30 artists working in a variety of media. Since 2010, the Confusion Is Sex series—organized by Dino Dinco, Dawn Kasper, and Oscar Santos—has sought to “confront/defy/examine/interrogate the desire to categorize ourselves and others [with regards to] gender and sexuality.” Sunday’s event was billed as the final event in the series, and it certainly made for a notable finish—its location in a fairly large and varied patch of land that had recently been ravaged made for the most unique and dramatic performance setting in recent memory.

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KATE-CHUNG and Perform Chinatown 2013

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary, upcoming events on July 29, 2013 by Carol Cheh
Kate Gilbert performs Two Less Things to Worry About (Lucy Returns) at Perform Chinatown

Kate Gilbert performs Two Less Things to Worry About
(Lucy Returns)
at Perform Chinatown

This year’s Perform Chinatown looked to be a significant improvement over the two previous years’ editions, both of which I panned here on this blog and on the LA Weekly’s blog. The element that really made a difference was the installment of wooden cubes or pyramids, painted either white or black, to act as frames for individual artists. These served to set aside a certain amount of much-needed sacred space in which magical things could occur; lacking such spaces last year, the festival took on too much of a chaotic street fair quality, with pedestrians and onlookers stumbling into performance space and impeding the intended flow of energy.

Co-organizer Jamie McMurry, who put together this year’s edition with his partner Alejandra Beatriz Herrera Silva, also noted that the structures functioned as a satirical play on the art world’s ubiquitous and much revered/reviled white cube/black box. It worked on that level too. Not to mention, they just looked cool. The festival was not relegated to these structures, however. They simply served as anchor points, housing the durational performances that lasted for the entirety of the event. Performances also happened on an open central stage, inside of a few galleries that line Chung King Road, and randomly roaming about the area, making for a nice spatial balance.

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homeLA, Mount Washington, May 4, 2013

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary with tags on May 7, 2013 by Carol Cheh
Absence: A History, performed by Sarah Jacobs, Aaron Kahn, Carol McDowell, and Madison Page

Alexandra Shilling’s Absence: A History deconstructed, performed by Sarah Jacobs, Aaron Kahn, Carol McDowell, and Madison Page

There’s a grand experiment afoot; the pioneering dance maven Rebecca Bruno, in partnership with the folks at Pieter and the Dance Resource Center, is seeking to infiltrate private homes throughout Los Angeles with a “site-sensitive” dance series called homeLA. The concept is a mutually beneficial one; the city’s small but scrappy experimental dance community opens up new performance venues for itself, while the sites themselves are enhanced by evocative dance works that play off their unique architecture.

The first installment of homeLA took place this past weekend at the home of Chloë Flores and Tim Lefebvre—a stunning, custom-built modernist compound nestled at the top of Mount Washington. The four-story main house and adjoining guest house, which sit elegantly on a hillside and deftly engage indoor/outdoor dynamics with elements like sliding glass doors and hidden patios, offered many unique spaces for dancers to experiment with movement.

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Bonus photos and thoughts from Perform Chinatown, July 21, 2012

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary on July 23, 2012 by Carol Cheh

Kate Gilbert, Lucy

Reviewing this year’s Perform Chinatown for the LA Weekly gave me a chance to reflect a little on the history of the event and the reasons for its various successes and failures. First of all, curatorial vision really matters here. The organizers need to get along with one another, they need to know the field intimately, and they need to have a discernible vision. A large public event like this veers too easily into chaos, and the brains and the dynamics behind the scenes have a direct effect on the strength and cohesion of the final product.

Second, context and framing are everything. The first two glorious years were serious presentations that aimed for a literate crowd and produced memorable works. The last couple of years have suffered from a RenFayre-like quality where family entertainment seems to be the aim and random people are invited in to check out what those weirdo artists are up to. There is nothing wrong with opening up performance art to a wider public, but I’m not sure that the casual, slapdash quality of the festival was a help to either the presentation or the appreciation of the works on view.

This doesn’t take away from the quality of performances that were presented by NICK+JAMES, Kate Gilbert, Alise Spinella, Karen Finley, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle (who actually fared the best in this environment, garnering tons of enthusiastic responses to A Knee Grow Contract), and many others that I missed. I just wish that the overall showcase was more savvy and proactive.

I am thankful that in both of the last two years, Small Form Space has acted as a hidden sanctuary in which to escape the weirdness of what’s going on outside, as it played host to the gentle beings benevolent association’s Perform Wow! event. It was such a relief to walk into a cozy living room, be welcomed by a designated hugger, and engage at leisure with a series of modest, intimate performances presented by artists with a long history of social and performative practices. It was a home in more than one sense of the word, perhaps proving yet again that no matter what misguided shenanigans may take place in our midst, we’ll always have safe spaces to return to.

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Scott Benzel, (Threnody) A Beginner’s Guide to Mao Tse-tung—for 2 tape loops, dancers, cello, viola, violin, and percussion and Math Bass, Brutal Set, both part of Made in LA, at the Hammer Museum, June 22, 2012

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary with tags on June 23, 2012 by Carol Cheh

Two intriguing performances happened at the Hammer Museum last night, as part of the Made in LA biennial. If you missed them, Math Bass’ performance will be reprised tomorrow (Sunday, June 24) at 3pm, and Scott Benzel’s will happen again on Thursday, June 28, at 7:30pm, as part of the Hammer Bash announcing the Mohn Award finalists.

Benzel’s work takes its inspiration from a bizarre 1967 Esquire magazine photo essay in which doomed beauty Sharon Tate was used to illustrate aphorisms from Mao’s Little Red Book. A collection of beautiful people of both genders models each of the looks adopted by Tate in the essay, using the symbolically-charged implements (farm hoe, shotgun, etc.) to compose noise on a tape loop while moving around and striking poses. Their movements are accompanied by musicians improvising a score. Since the original essay doesn’t make sense and is blatantly exploitative to boot, it is a logical move to take the eye candy it provides and dissipate it into an experimental noise composition. I found it dramatic, evocative, and lovely to watch.

Scott Benzel, (Threnody) A Beginner’s Guide to Mao Tse-tung—for 2 tape loops, dancers, cello, viola, violin, and percussion

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Chinatown openings, November 5, 2011

Posted in photo essays, reviews and commentary, reviews of literature on November 7, 2011 by Carol Cheh

Micol Hebron refills her crystal vagina

Just when you thought vagina art had been exhausted, Micol Hebron, the undisputed queen of the genre, steps up and takes it to yet another level. Her new show at Jancar Gallery—titled Sisterhood is Powerful and partially done in collaboration with her sisters Siobhan and Tiernan—is all vaginas, all the time, all in your in face.

There are exquisite vagina portraits in the front gallery and glittery vagina drawings in the basement. There is even one genius painting that repurposes Jackson Pollock’s and Lucio Fontana’s iconic gestures to create an AbEx-Spatialist vagina canvas. But the centerpiece, a true showstopper, was a huge crystal vagina grotto that secreted a steady stream of delicious (and quite strong) piña colada, which guests were invited to help themselves to. I had two cups, garnished with cherries and orange slices, and was buzzed for the rest of the evening. This, on top of the retro-feminist high of hilarity that I always get from Hebron’s cheeky, cheery, and totally unapologetic paeans to the beauty and power of vaginas. Go sisters! (You can read Hebron’s own detailed commentary on this show here.)

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