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Preview for the episode Los Angeles from Season 8 of Art21 Art in the Twenty-First Century (2016), featuring artists Edgar Arceneaux, Liz Larner, Tala Madani, and Diana Thater.More information
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Edgar Arceneaux investigates historical patterns through drawings, installations, and multimedia events. In the artist’s work, linear logic is abandoned in favor of wordplay and visual associations, revealing how language, technology, and systems of ordering produce reality as much as describe them. Seemingly disparate elements—such as science fiction, civil rights era speeches, techno music, and the crumbling architecture of Detroit—find a new synchronicity in the artist’s hands, ultimately pointing to larger historical forces such as the rise of the surveillance state.
Tala Madani skewers stereotypes in her sharply satirical paintings that evoke clashes of culture: men and women, the rational and the absurd, Western and non-Western. Madani’s figurative paintings often feature a riotous cast of middle-aged men, balding and stocky, whose libidinal mayhem wreaks havoc on any situation the artist thrusts them into. Acerbic caricatures of both machismo and a childlike desire for mischief, the physical comedy at work in Madani’s paintings is anchored by intense pleasures, pathos, and a pervasive sense of violence. Madani’s pictures are also transformed into stop-motion animations where the artist photographs a freshly created scene over time—wet paint still glistening—resulting in stories of small calamities that are once hilarious, tender, and ghoulish.
Diana Thater makes video installations that poetically grapple with threats to the natural world, from the extinction of species to long-lasting environmental disasters such as the nuclear fallout of Chernobyl. Many of the artist’s works take the space where people and animals meet as their subject, exploring the experiences of wild gorillas in a Cameroon park, a wolf trained to work in Hollywood films, a monkey-inhabited temple in India, and zebras at an exotic animal farm. Adopting cyclical time signatures and extended durations, Thater’s ambient works are abstractions of time which diverge from the linear narratives humans use to make sense of themselves and the cosmos.
Liz Larner experiments with abstract sculptural forms in a dizzying array of materials, including polychromatic ceramics that evoke the tectonic geologic shifts of the western landscape. An inventor of new forms, Larner’s sculptures are not easy to categorize. They defy easy description by design, such as the geometric sculpture of a cube turning into a sphere that is both yet neither, or a complex chain of linked metal rings that never tangles and can also be worn as jewelry. Working with both analog and digital tools, Larner’s materials change from work to work and can include fiberglass, crystals, paper, clay, aluminum, steel, rubber, epoxy, mirror, cloth, and even bacteria. As daring as her investigation into new forms can be, Larner’s sculptures are approachable in their human scale and idiosyncratic vision that favors personal narrative over minimal austerity.
“Art is not inherently good. It’s not inherently bad. But it is inherently contradictory.”