“Witch Hunt”
              Kim Córdova
              “Witch Hunt” opens with an unnerving chill courtesy of El agua del Río Bravo (2021), a sculptural installation by Teresa Margolles that envelops visitors ascending the Hammer’s steps in air cooled by water gathered from the Río Bravo, along the US-Mexican border, by residents of the Casa Respetttrans women’s shelter. The work sets the tone for an exhibition responding to today’s generalized culture of misogyny with powerful work by an international roster of midcareer women artists. It may be tempting to assume that the show’s title is mere allegory: that concerns about cabals of female devil worship no longer occupy the minds of contemporary Americans. But a cursory review of the news, from Pizzagate to the “lock her up” refrain against Hillary Clinton and death threats against AOC, show that women who threaten to disrupt male power will continue to be accused of evil. And where witch hunts once referred to the persecution of the weak by the powerful, the script flipped in 1973 when Richard Nixon used the term to denounce the Watergate hearings, setting in motion a pattern of powerful men—most notably Donald Trump—claiming to be the subjects of exactly such a threat. This show across two institutions …
              Lari Pittman’s “Declaration of Independence”
              Travis Diehl
              Lari Pittman’s resonant retrospective at the Hammer in Los Angeles impresses first with the filigreed intricacy of his paintings, second with their special monotony. Three decades of work spills forth in the bold colors of commercial signage, splashed with decorative motifs—Victorian cameos, arrows, tipping pots, teardrops of various fluids, and the accoutrements of Enlightenment science. The more things change, the more they resemble the past. A carousel or color wheel of eighteenth-century silhouettes rolls through a garden of giant roses in This Amusement, Beloved and Despised, Continues Regardless (1989), as the figures paint on easels or hold measured discussions; a man in the lower right corner exposes his cock. Their human shapes presage the disarticulated dummies or robots that clatter across the compositions of the series “Grisaille, Ethics & Knots” (2016), where the colors give way to apocalyptic chrome, white, and warning-light red. Pittman’s paintings reiterate a history of individual styles: all-over expressionism, minimalist structure, constructivist design, mannerist embellishment, and, emulsifying all, postmodern pastiche. Still, the dense chemistry of each individual painting burns through the overall clutter. The chronological hang at the Hammer delivers an increasing avalanche of strokes and stencils, but also reveals the tight interplay of small differences …
              Los Angeles Roundup
              Christina Catherine Martinez
              “This is a stupid town. It’s lazy, it’s polite, it’s so sissy in its mentality, so go along with everything that goes along. It’s corporate-owned, it’s a town owned by Hollywood, and it’s about time it grew up. It’s about time that it took art and said come on baby, show me something!” Thus spoke John Cassavetes in a behind-the-scenes documentary for his 1977 film Opening Night. The clip played as part of an intro bumper at Now Instant Image Hall, a microcinema in Highland Park with a bookshop selling various zines and small press titles related to its eclectic programing, from Susan Cianciolo’s films to historical gems like Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (1972). The latter screened just a few days before the cultural Leviathan known as Frieze Week descended upon the city, bringing with it a deluge of rain and the attendant disenchantment. Cassavetes’s diatribe drew laughs and cheers from the 60 or so rain-soaked people nestled into the space (I love the way he hisses out the word sissy—his hatred for Los Angeles is unimpeachably authentic) and it does presciently, if cynically, encapsulate this moment of arrival. The LA art scene grew up. Or at least, the kids …

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