LA Times review of “These Carnations Defy Language” at PMCA

1502-178 -¬ Don Milici

Two artists try to portray the indescribable at Pasadena Museum of California Art

Review by Sharon Mizota

“These Carnations Defy Language,” a two-person exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, is a perfect pairing of local artists Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden.

Both have long been inspired by language, often using it to generate colorful, intensely heartfelt abstractions. Side by side in this gently moving show, their drawings and collages have something of a familial resemblance, deploying dense networks of grids, stripes and triangles with vibrant, organic energy.

The exhibition was inspired by both artists’ engagement with the prose poems of French writer Francis Ponge, who described everyday things like flowers, wasps and soap with unbridled jubilation. Still, despite these raptures (or because of them), he found language inadequate: The exhibition’s truculent title comes from him.

Grant’s and Roden’s works might be said to reverse-engineer Ponge: Where he attempted to capture quotidian wonders in words, they transform language into images that blossom.

Roden often uses textual or musical sources as a kind of “score” for generating imagery, and here he uses an issue of the Italian architecture magazine Domus published in the month and year of his birth.

The resulting drawings and collages often incorporate clippings from the magazine and refer obliquely to the sleek contours of modern architecture, although Roden builds his images through accretion and improvisation, which gives them a more relaxed, vernacular feel.

“The sky crying is,” features triangular, peek-a-boo cutouts that reveal spare, architectural imagery behind a surface of drippy, hand-painted, multicolored stripes. The image simultaneously evokes structure and defies it.

Especially intriguing is the video “lines and faces,” in which Roden arranges striped paper triangles over a magazine page depicting three famous writers. As Roden aligns and misaligns the stripes over the portraits, we understand the irreducibility of faces: They are always more than the sum of the lines—whether drawn or written—that describe them.

Grant was inspired by Sophocles’ play “Antigone,” whose female protagonist defies political decrees to honor her dead brother. Five large wall pieces are each titled with a line from the play, “I was born to love not to hate.”

Strong stripes and chevrons provide a structural component that plays against the messiness of Rorschach blots and the words of the title in Grant’s trademark mirrored writing. The blots and the words—both bilaterally symmetrical like a body—flicker between legibility and nonsense.

The juxtaposition of hard, geometric shapes and this more indeterminate imagery is an analog, not only for Antigone’s predicament, but for the way text works. Only hard, black letters on a page, it can evoke, as Ponge knew, so much more.

What Roden and Grant are really getting at is meaning itself: how it is made and transmitted and what becomes of it along the way.

Seeing their works together for the first time, I was surprised by their visionary, almost spiritual quality. Although they appear systematic and structured, there is always a human element that escapes description, defies our attempts to pin it down.

Photo credit: John Millici

We Must Risk Delight: 20 Artists from LA at the Venice Biennale


We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles

@ la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015

Exhibition Dates: May 9 – November 22, 2015

Magazzino del Sale No.3, Dorsoduro 264, Venezia, Italy

Presented in collaboration with Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia

We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles is an exhibition that presents, for the first time on the international stage, a group of exceptional contemporary Los Angeles artists whose work makes Los Angeles one of the most exciting hubs of creativity in the world today.

We Must Risk Delight is inspired by the poem A Brief for the Defense by a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry finalist, Jack Gilbert. In his viscerally visual poem, Gilbert calls on humanity to recognize every moment of delight even in the most ominous of impressions. By slicing through the somber depictions of the world we live in with sharp and vibrant moments of joy, the poet presents an irrefutable case for our happiness as being our most requisite expression of freedom, not in spite of the cruelty that is a part of our world, but because of it.

A work of art represents the artist’s vision of the world and, when embraced, it can be seen as a way of making a world. The artists presented in We Must Risk Delight will give the audiences of the Biennale Arte 2015 an opportunity to discover the city of Los Angeles through the kaleidoscope of its creative community, while also encouraging us all to risk delight and celebrate the act of creating as humanity’s pathway to joy: both within ourselves and in the collective world around us.

We Must Risk Delight: Twenty Artists from Los Angeles is being presented as an official Collateral Event of the 56th manifestation of la Biennale di Venezia, Biennale Arte 2015.

Presented Artists:

Brandy Eve Allen                   Tanya Batura                    Jamison Carter                      Carolyn Castaño
Robbie Conal                          Kenturah Davis                Amir H. Fallah                       Alexandra Grant
Margaret Griffith                   Sherin Guirguis                Ben Jackel                              Mark Licari
Rebecca Niederlander          Stas Orlovski                     Natasa Prosenc Stearns       Tony de los Reyes
Frank Ryan                             Shizu Saldamando           Carole Silverstein                  Alexis Zoto


LOVE: Creativity, Connection, Community at Montalvo Arts Center

Grant, Alexandra_I see my self in you 2013_AG13-0032

LOVE: Creativity, Connection, Community at Montalvo Arts Center

February 28 – June 8, 2014

Less than 50 years ago, “the Summer of Love” was more than a pop culture fad: it aspired to bring about a major social and political shift in America. Today, however, we face a near total lack of public debate about love as the basis of connection, understanding, and acceptance in our culture and our communities. Technological innovation makes it possible for us to be better informed about each other’s lives and feelings than any other time in human history. But is it deepening our connections with others? Or do cell phones, e-mail, and social media strip nuance from our communication and leave us lonelier than before?

L O V E, Montalvo’s latest exhibition, considers the challenges of extending ourselves to commune and connect with others, with an installation of video, drawings, sculpture, and other works. Featured artists include Elisheva Biernoff, Double Zero, Alexandra Grant, Jon Meyer, Omar Mismar, Fiamma Montezemolo, Stephanie Taylor, and Allison Wiese. Through installation, sound work, video, drawing, and outdoor sculpture, participating artists explore the bonds of friendship; the important role of empathy in our lives; the intersection between desire and new technologies; and the complex relationships between love, belonging, identity and community.


A panel discussion

Friday, April 25, 2014, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Image: Alexandra Grant, I see my self in you, 2013, coated glass tubing, argon gas, transformer and mirror, 51″ x 16″ x 2″.  Photo credit: The Lapis Press.

Century of the Self at Lora Reynolds Gallery opens January 18

Century of the Self at Lora Reynolds

Century of the Self at Lora Reynolds Gallery

January 18 – March 15, 2014

Opening Reception: Saturday, January 18, 2014, 6-8pm

Lora Reynolds is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by Alexandra Grant, Century of the Self, organized by independent curator Sarah C. Bancroft.

Alexandra Grant uses language, literature, and exchanges with writers as the basis for her paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Grant explores philosophical concepts of identity in her new text-based body of work, Century of the Self. The presentation of this series at Lora Reynolds Gallery is comprised of vibrantly colored paintings, works on paper, and a floor installation made from recycled plastic. Grant’s intimate as well as heroically scaled artworks, combined with poignant textual detail, delve into questions about how we define ourselves, who the ‘Other’ is, and the origins of the interior voices that fill our unconscious and shape our identities.

Grant is known as a ‘radical collaborator’—it is collaboration that shapes what she does outside of the studio as much as within it. Grant has worked with writers as diverse as professor, author, and hypertext pioneer Michael Joyce; actor Keanu Reeves; and French feminist writer, philosopher, and playwright Hélène Cixous.

Inspired by Adam Curtis’s BBC Four documentary of the same name, Grant’s textual references in Century of the Self are drawn from literary sources including Sophocles’s tragic play and character Antigone; work by the writer, poet, and activist Audre Lorde; seminal psychological texts by Sigmund Freud and his followers; and cultural movements that probed the unconscious mind, including Surrealism and Feminism. Grant does not claim to have found the ‘Self,’ rather she maps—through collage, Rorschach patterns, and textual quotations—what is a constant search.

Alexandra Grant’s Century of the Self is an ongoing project that has taken a number of different forms. It was produced as a line of ready-to-wear clothing in collaboration with the brand Clover Canyon; presented as a billboard project on top of LAXART in Los Angeles; and exhibited as part of Los Angeles Nomadic Division’s (LAND) exhibition, Painting in Place. Recent works from the series were included in the group exhibition Drawn to Language at University of Southern California’s Fisher Museum of Art in fall of 2013. The exhibition at Lora Reynolds Gallery includes four new paintings—fresh from the artist’s studio—and several works recently exhibited at the Fisher Museum.

Grant’s first solo museum exhibition was in 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Grant has participated in numerous other major exhibitions, including the 2010 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art; The Artist’s Museum at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Drawing Surrealism, also at LACMA. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Contemporary Museum (Baltimore), the Center for Contemporary Art (Tel Aviv), and other institutions in the United States and abroad.

Born in 1973 in Fairview Park, Ohio, Grant lives and works in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College (BA, 1995) and California College of the Arts (MFA, 2000). She has taught at CalArts, Cal State Northridge, and Art Center College of Design, and has received grants/awards from the California Community Foundation, the Durfee Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation.

Sarah C. Bancroft is an Austin-based independent curator and writer and serves as assistant director of curatorial affairs at the art initiative Fluent~Collaborative and its exhibition venue testsite. Prior to her move to Texas in 2013, Bancroft held curatorial positions at the Orange County Museum of Art from 2008 to 2013 and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York) from 2000 to 2005. In addition to her critically acclaimed traveling exhibition Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series (2012), Bancroft curated Two Schools of Cool (2011) and organized the 2010 California Biennial at OCMA. One of the projects she curated in 2009 was Video Work by Gao Shiquang and Chen Qiulin at OCMA as part of the Ancient Paths, Modern Voices China Festival produced by Carnegie Hall and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. At the Guggenheim, she co-curated James Rosenquist: A Retrospective (2003). Bancroft received her MA in the history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art (London). Her area of specialization is modern and contemporary art from the 1950s to present. She is a bike commuter, an urban hiker, and lives in Austin with her husband David.

Century of the Self at Lora Reynolds

Top: Self and Other and Century of the Self (2) and (3), 2013.
Bottom: Site/Self (projections) and Self (I was born to love not to hate), 2012.
Photo credit: Colin Doyle.

Alexandra Grant Billboard at LAXART


LA><ART is pleased to announce a public art initiative with Los Angeles-based artist Alexandra Grant.  Her public billboard, I love myself, 2013, is currently up on view facing north on La Cienega Boulevard between Venice and Washington Boulevards.

I love myself, 2013 is part of Grant’s series Century of the Self that examines the philosophical concept of the Self as the basis for works in painting, drawing and sculpture.  Grant’s installation of works from Century of the Self is currently installed at USC’s Fisher Museum as part of the exhibition Drawn to Language.  Fisher Museum curator Ariadni Liokatis writes, “Inspired by Adam Curtis’ documentary of the same name, Grant’s Century of the Self is drawn from many sources including Sophocles’ Antigone, the writer Audre Lorde, seminal psychological texts by Freud and his followers, and cultural movements that probed the unconscious mind, from Surrealism to Feminism. In Century of the Self Grant does not claim to have found the Self, but maps—through collage, Rorschach patterns and textual quotation—what is a constant search.”

About LA><ART

Founded in 2005, LA><ART is a leading independent nonprofit contemporary art space in Los Angeles, committed to the production of experimental exhibitions and public art initiatives. Responding to Los Angeles’ cultural climate, LA><ART produces and presents new work for all audiences and offers the public access to the next generation of artists and curators. LA><ART supports challenging work, reflecting the diversity of the city and stimulates conversations on contemporary art in Los Angeles, fostering dynamic relationships between art, artists and their audiences. Since 2005, LA><ART has produced and commissioned over 200 exhibitions, public initiatives, and projects.

Photo credit: Tony Manzella

Century of the Self at USC’s Fisher Museum

Century of the Self at USC Fisher

Century of the Self at USC’s Fisher Museum

September 3 – December 7, 2013

Opening: September 26, 6-8pm (please RSVP to or call 213-740-4561, parking at Gate 1 at Exposition Blvd. and Watt Way)

Gallery hours: Tuesday through Friday, 12 noon to 5 PM and Saturday, 12 noon to 4 PM.  Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Los Angeles based artist Alexandra Grant explores philosophical concepts of identity in her new text-based body of work titled Century of the Self.  Century of the Self includes vibrantly colored paintings, works on paper and a floor installation made from recycled waste. Grant’s heroic-scale artworks combined with a taste for poignant textual detail allows her to delve into questions of how we define who we are, who the Other is, and what the voices are that come to populate our unconscious while most profoundly shaping us. Inspired by Adam Curtis’s documentary of the same name, Grant’s Century of the Self is drawn from many sources including Sophocles’ Antigone, the writer Audre Lorde, seminal psychological texts by Freud and his followers, and cultural movements that probed the unconscious mind, from Surrealism to Feminism. In Century of the Self Grant does not claim to have found the Self, but maps—through collage, Rorschach patterns and textual quotation—what is a constant search.

Century of the Self is presented at USC’s Fisher Museum as part of “Drawn to Language”, from September 3 through December 7, 2013.  For more information, please see:

Installation view, Century of the Self, Fisher Museum, USC.  Photo credit: Brian Forrest.

Painting in Place, organized by Los Angeles Nomadic Division, opens May 22


Painting in Place

Exhibition dates: May 22 – July 31, 2013 with gallery hours Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 12 – 6pm and Thursday 1 – 7pm

LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) will present Painting in Place, a group exhibition of contemporary painting in the historic Farmers and Merchants Bank in Downtown Los Angeles (401 South Main Street Los Angeles, CA 90013) from May 22-July 31, 2013. Painting in Place is curated by LAND’s Co-Founder, Director, and Curator, Shamim M. Momin.

The exhibition will present a wide array of work from contemporary artists that tackle painting from various perspectives, using both traditional and unconventional techniques and media in their approach to the discipline. Exploring various ways that the definition of painting is continuously evolving, the project seeks to expand the traditional parameters of painting, sculpture, and installation: blurred, deconstructed, and refigured.

Three overlapping themes permeate the exhibition: the representation or metaphor of the body/self, memory and the passing of time, and the depiction and negotiation of spatial environments and architectural structures. Subjects will be explored, investigated, and highlighted through the juxtaposition and placement of these paintings within the site-specific context of the historic bank, built in 1905, which is still a cornerstone of Downtown Los Angeles.

Artists include Rita Ackermann, Kevin Appel, Jennifer Boysen, Sarah Cain, N. Dash, Matias Faldbakken, Kim Fisher, Barnaby Furnas, Alexandra Grant, Matt Greene, Mark Hagen, David Hendren, Julian Hoeber, Rashid Johnson, Jacob Kassay, Olga Koumoundouros, Jim Lee, Nate Lowman, Allison Miller, Sam Moyer, Amanda Ross-Ho, Analia Saban, Kate Shepherd, Gary Simmons, Vincent Szarek, Britton Tolliver, Kon Trubkovich, Monique van Genderen, and Bobbi Woods.