Untitled by Eva Hesse, 1960, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Currently the Hammer Museum has five exhibits that make a visit more than worthwhile.  Diverse as they may seem, each addresses our place in the world in a unique way.  From painting to sculpture to physically imposing participation pieces, there is much to experience here.

Eva Hesse: Sprectres 1960

Hesse is most famously known for the sculptures she started creating in 1965 made of fiberglass and plastic.  Minimal abstract shapes that are also organic, those pieces are often hanging, stringy, sensual and feminine.  This show consisting of paintings from 1960 are abstract, vaguely figurative and with mostly muted neutral colors, they are dark, even alarming. Like somber dreams that aren’t quite nightmares, they are revealing of a psyche plagued by self doubt and identity issues.  It’s fascinating to see work that preceded the sculpture that would become her signature mark and influence many artists for years to come.

Abandoned Room by Mark Manders, Photo by Brian Forrest

Mark Manders: Parallel Occurrences/Documented Assignments

Entering from the Hesse exhibit is the perfect introduction to Manders’ work; the first piece seen is Abandoned Room where you immediately feel the subtle influence of Hesse’s work.  Info from the museum describes his work as being about the exploration of the artist’s personal identity using mundane objects like furniture along with animals, building parts, machinery and more.  What is so curious about this is that consistently the themes appear to be based around women.  Faces, partial bodies, trapped in wood panels or held by wire, the figures speak about entrapment and forced immobility, along with commentary on our dependence on the mechanical.  Abstract and indirect, the art work gives the viewer impressions but does not reveal specifics.

See Through This by Mark Flores, photo courtesy David Kordansky Gallery

Mark Flores: See Through This

Ninety-nine paintings fill the lobby and stairwell, all depicting images, thoughts, and memories of Flores’s walks around and through LA.  Based on photographs the artists took on his travels throughout the city, the paintings are influenced by those images; at times produced with photo like dots, other times photo realistically painted.  Like a combination of mural and collage the paintings move with you as you traverse the stairs, partaking in the artist’s journey physically as well as emotionally.

Girl with Purple Stockings by Egon Schiele
Repair by Anders Zorn
The Impossibility by Hans Sebald Beham

Houseguest: Selections from the Grunwald Collection

Francis Stark sifted through the 45,000 images comprised of the Grunwald Collection to present this exhibit which addresses the sexes through themes that are at times commonplace but essential elements of everyone’s existence.  With a focus on line and drawing, a wonderful array of work is displayed ranging in dates from 1549 to the present.  Whether it’s a print of the dead being carted away by Goya or a humorous cartoon by Mike Kelly, there are many small wonders to be seen.

Demon Hill by Julian Hoeber

Julian Hoeber: Demon Hill

Hoeber has created a free standing box that messes with you physically so much that it plays on your emotions as well.  Based on “the architecture of “gravitational mystery spots”, the structure invites you into it’s slanted floors only to knock you off your feet (not literally though).  The sensation is instant and everyone I spoke to felt dizzy, even a little nauseous after being inside the box.  When I was inside I thought to myself, I better not walk around in here too much with my heels on, I even felt a little afraid.  Once outside I looked down and remembered that I was wearing flats.  It isn’t simply that you walk into a room and stand on a slant, it is the combination of lighting, fixed seats and shelves that all add to a dislocating sense of time and place.  As much a science project as an art piece, it’s an interesting last stop in your day at the museum.

For more information regarding visits and closing dates for each show go to the The Hammer Museum. Admission is free through December 18.

Culture The Hammer: Eva Hesse, Mark Manders, Mark Flores