Frieze Week: Meet Four Artists Exploring the “Sunshine and Noir” of L.A.

Frieze Week: Meet Four Artists Exploring the “Sunshine and Noir” of L.A.
Feb 2023

Refik Anadol, Friedrich Kunath, Jessica Taylor Bellamy and Chase Hall train their sights on the topography of Los Angeles in new shows at the Frieze art fair and around town.

February is L.A.'s busiest art month, with no less than five fairs kicking off around the city. Among them, Frieze Los Angeles, owned by Endeavor, returns in a new and larger location at Santa Monica Airport. As Frieze opens, THR catches up with four buzzy artists, all with new shows right now that explore the topography of Los Angeles.

Refik Anadol

Just days after his AI-based art was shown on screens surrounding the stage of the 2023 Grammys, artist and computer programmer Anadol opened a mesmerizing solo show, Living Paintings, at Jeffrey Deitch. The exhibit showcases the Istanbul-born artist's large-scale LED-screen video works that harness millions of images and data points, transforming them into seemingly fluid cascades of imagery. The pieces include the work Artificial Realities: California Landscapes, generated from 300 million photos of national parks in the Golden State. "We create our AI on this data and our AI will be dreaming those landscapes. I'm calling it a 'thinking brush,' " says Anadol, whose 15-person studio is in L.A.'s Frogtown neighborhood. Other visual works in his show at Deitch are powered by wind data in Los Angeles and by real-time Pacific Ocean readings; the exhibit also includes Anadol's vertigo-inducing Infinity Room (partly inspired by Yayoi Kusama's famous Infinity Mirrors), which has been experienced by more than two million visitors at exhibits around the world.

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The artist -- who moved to the West coast in 2012 to study at UCLA and now teaches there -- tells THR exclusively that next year he plans to open an artificial-reality museum, Dataland, in DTLA. "I love L.A.," he says. "It has innovation in the core."


WHERE Jeffrey Deitch, 925 N. Orange Drive, through April 29

<strong>WHO COLLECTS Anadol's work is in the collection of CAA, which represents him. His agent, Thao Nguyen, who is also the CEO of live-event company Constellation Immersive, tells THR, "I came across Refik's data paintings about eight years ago and had never experienced anything like it. He was so ahead of his time and it's been such a thrill to witness him build this new artistic vocabulary - merging painting with machine learning with so much rigor, feeling and optimism."

Jessica Taylor Bellamy

The L.A. native artist says that she looks at the "sunshine and noir, realism and fantasy" of the city as inspiration for her multimedia art. In Endnotes for Sunshine, her first solo show at Anat Ebgi Gallery in Mid-City, Bellamy depicts inviting landscapes that are dotted with palm trees or flowers or swimming pools, all washed in the tones of West Coast sunsets. But superimposed on many of them are silk-screened articles from the Los Angeles Times with unsettling headlines like "California's tsunami threat," "uncertain future" and "safety crackdown." Says Bellamy, "I have this huge pile of [newspapers] in my studio. A lot of the things I'm collecting are specific stories that might be about the climate or they might be visual indicators of change like temperature maps."

The exhibition also includes a video sculpture, In view, if not in reach, which combines footage taken while driving west in L.A. at sunset with a hand-painted animation of vanity license plates, which intrigue her because of what they reveal about people's psyches. "The show is exploring the environmental tapestry of L.A.," explains Bellamy, who grew up in Whittier and completed an MFA at USC last year.

WHERE Anat Ebgi, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., through Feb. 25

WHO COLLECTS UTA partner and creative director Arthur Lewis, the head of UTA Fine Arts, tells THR that "Jessica's work first caught my eye through her meticulous approach to painting and her dexterity in capturing the L.A. landscape, but what truly grabbed me were the layers of meaning and copious research that goes into the work, addressing deeply rooted social inequities and the devastating environmental damage we so often try to look away from."

Chase Hall

Truth is at the heart of Hall's autobiographical paintings, found in the dimensional, varied, rich spectrum of sepia tones. On display during Frieze Los Angeles at David Kordansky Gallery's booth, Hall's solo presentation of new work -- made up of diptychs and stand-alone canvases created through a surprising alchemy of brewed coffee and acrylic paint -- are a veritable bildungsroman told visually. Born in the Midwest, raised in Los Angeles and now residing in New York City, Hall creates paintings, many of Black surfers, that are inspired by his own childhood journey out West, and the places that provided solace while he battled waves of microaggressions and othering -- namely, the beach and the outdoor activities that make up Southern California's horizon line.

"I think oftentimes the ideas of identity or intersectionality or hybridity kind of become a bit banal, or lost in these polarizing narratives that we're often interested in. [I'm] just trying to take that step a bit further in my own realm of nuance and Black adventurism, and this kind of genetic shame or guilt that I'm developing language for; this idea of existing between the absolutes of Blackness and whiteness -- what does that mixed reality look like? And how do I articulate that outside of a non-monolithic Blackness as well?" says Hall.

In his new show, pieces like County Lifeguards are firmly grounded in community (the stability of bodies arranged in a triangular formation is echoed in the similarly powerful Pulling the Pyramids), while others, like Public Access on a Private Beach, seem to search for belonging. Each offering is imbued with the quiet confidence (through clear brushstrokes and an undeniable sense of place) of an artist who has known himself all along; sometimes, it's just the perspective, not the vista, that needs to change.

WHERE At Frieze Los Angeles, David Kordansky Gallery booth, through Feb. 19

WHO COLLECTS Among Hall's collectors is SpringHill Company CEO Maverick Carter, who tells THR, "Chase is an incredible artist. From the first time I saw his paintings, I was drawn to how he depicted black people in a way most don't see us. Through this love and appreciation for his work, I got to know his personality and learn his amazing story. More than a great artist, he's a great person, creator, storyteller, and now he's also a great friend as well." -- EVAN NICOLE BROWN

Friedrich Kunath

In his beautiful yet melancholic landscape paintings -- inspired by the German Romantic period and paintings of the American West -- Kunath looks at the ideas of home and belonging. Born in the mid-1970s in East Germany, the artist moved to Los Angeles in 2007. "A big part of the concept of the show is my quest of finding home again and just realizing that it isn't there anymore," says Kunath, who splits his time between Europe and Pasadena. "In a spiritual sense I don't feel home in one place, and I realized early on that that is the engine of my work, this forever quest to define home." Among the pieces in his new show, I Don't Know the Place but I Know How to Get There, at Blum & Poe is the clever Cars & Coffee Los Angeles, which depicts L.A.'s car meetup culture amid the landscape seen in Albert Bierstadt's famed 1864 painting Valley of the Yosemite. "I go to these [car enthusiast] meetings in Griffith Park. And it's a little bit funny [seeing] all these cars with the sublime nature," says Kunath, who sees L.A. as "a complicated city full of substance but also full of surface. I think this is still the best city for an artist to step into -- this roller coaster of never-ending dualities and paradoxes that it holds."

Kunath, who has a studio east of DTLA, shares that his search for a sense of rootedness in his life has taken him through a "dark and quite existential phase." But at this point in his life, he's begun to think he may have found a spot that feels like home: "One of my favorite musicians David Berman used to say, 'Songs build little rooms in time' and I feel like paintings do that too. After 48 years, I've surrendered to the thought of having a home in my work."

WHERE Blum & Poe, 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., through Feb. 25

WHO COLLECTS "Friedrich's work is the perfect ethos of Los Angeles -- brightness and noir," says Endeavor executive chairman Patrick Whitesell. "It drew me in because of its romantic view of the world filled with lots of humor and irony."

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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