Michael Ned Holte is a member of the art program faculty at the California Institute of the Arts and a frequent contributor to Artforum. His writing has recently appeared in the exhibition catalogue for "Hany Armanious: The Golden Thread" (Australian Council for the Arts) and will be included in the forthcoming volume Live Art in LA: Performance Art in Southern California, 1970-1983 (Routledge).
1 "ASCO: ELITE OF THE OBSCURE, A RETRO-SPECTIVE, 1972-1987" (Los Angeles County Museum of Art; curated by C. Ondine Chavoya and Rita Gonzalez) Strangest art sighting of the past year? How about an image of Asco's Patssi Valdez, glimpsed on a Bank of America ATM the same day Occupy Wall Street's Los Angeles splinter mobilized in the downtown financial district? Itturns out the corporate monster directed some trickle-down loottoward "Pacific Standard Time," the Gerty's dizzyingly ambitious reconsideration of postwar and contemporary art in Southern California. Perhaps no show better summed up the initiative's scholarly acumen than lacma's survey of this Chicano collaborative. Dense with photographs, performance documents, props, paintings, and ephemera, the show reveals a wildly energetic band of outsiders from East LA--initially Harry Gamboa Jr., Glugio Nicandro (aka Gronk), Willie F. Herron III, and Valdez--defying and occasionally defacing hallowed institutional boundaries.
2 "NOW DIG THIS! ART AND BLACK LOS ANGELES1960-1980" (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; curated by Kellie Jones) Like Asco, many of the artistsin "NowDig This!" invented opportunities to rnake and exhibit their work rather than waiting for an invitation. While putting into perspective the social and cultural upheaval from which much of this art emerged, Jones strikes an impressive balance between elucidating the historical context and spotlighting the remarkable objects on display. It will be impossible, after this exhibition, to think of West Coast assemblage without thinking immediately not only about Ed Ktenholz and George Herms but also about Melvin Edwards, Senga Nengudi, John Outter bridge, and Noah Purifoy, to name only a few standouts.
3 SIMON LEUNG, WAR AFTER WAR A Pole born in a German displaced persons' camp, Warren Niestuchowski immigrated to the United States as a young man and joined the army, only to desert during Vietnam. Today he remains a globe-trotting nomad who relies on the hospitality of friends and strangers, frequently appearing at art openings all over the world without ever seeming to desire anything more than a smart conversation oran opportunity to burst into song. War After War, Leung's 2011 video portrait of Niestuchowski, works quietly, entirely avoiding didacticism while gently framing its subject--partfianeur, part monk--as an idiosyncratic model of resistance.
4 STEPHANIETAYLOR, "STEPHANIE TAYLOR SONGBOOK" (Schindler House, Los Angeles, July 23, 2011) On this summer evening (presented by the Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound and the MAK Center for Art and Architecture), the polymath Taylor was joined by a dozen or so friends and colleagues for a recital of her greatest hitsr including "Valsalhalal's Tin Gun," "Gutter Foal," and "A Leash for Fritz and Kale for Stray Bunny." The last of these off-kilteryarns (all generated via the artist's arcane self-invented rhyme-based system) was performed by Alice Konitz and Taylor, who, in tandem and in costume, seemed to channel Captain Beefheart, Red Krayola, and Kurt Schwitters all at once. …