Ashley Hagen




Chad Attie and Ashley Hagen showed together to great advantage, as their disparate sensibilities still share a responsivity to visual and material complexity. Attie’s collage/assemblage work brims with physical gesture, subjective selection, and a playful way with images, which hide themselves in one another and play with borderline areas between kitsch and childhood nostalgia, art history and popular entertainment. Attie brings his images and objects together with what seems like furious abandon – again an evocation of children’s wanton destructiveness. But the slapdash feel belies the exquisite care Attie lavishes on putting things and pictures in and behind and around other things and pictures; you realize he has expertly composed these gritty combines and silly sculptures so that they compel you to look for narrative connections. Those connections flicker at the edges of these explosively charming presences, but never settle down enough to allow you to “read” them.

By contrast, you read Hagen’s constructions right away – and, their identities and meanings immediately settled, you fall victim to their beguiling disruptions of scale, function, and even texture. Our context for Hagen’s work is the dollhouse, while hers is her actual memory of (as opposed to Attie’s oblique reference to) childhood homes ; but she is not interested in domestic sentiment, much less miniaturization for its own sake. Rather, she concerns herself with the dynamics of transformation, of allowing things to change size – and frequently material – and thus to change context. A house resides inside another house. A row of tiny cabinets cast out of concrete hangs on the wall. A structure composed of stacked palettes, modified to appear like eaves on eaves – again, weirdly shrunk to dollhouse size – reveals itself as a viable residence, punctured by windows and even balconies where the Lilliputian residents can emerge for air. This piece, especially, asks us to imagine it “full size,” a pile of similar architectural details comprising an entire house, post-modern strategizing liberated by surrealist free-association.

(Andrew Shire, 3850 Wilshire Blvd, LA; closed.

– Peter Frank

ASHLEY HAGEN, Layer Cake, 2013, Mixed media, 54 x 50 x 35 inches




MFAde In L.A.: BOOM Los Angeles 2012

By Kyle Fitzpatrick

Posted July 30, 2012

A show like Made In L.A. really points out that there is a landscape of artists in Los Angeles. It has some flaws, sure, but it does show that there are artists here working. This LA art celebration along with programming like Pacific Standard Time (remember that??) are like giant highlighters that circle various creative hotbeds, pointing out communities and arenas where people are getting creative. Now bring in a show like BOOM Los Angeles 2012, a Southern California MFA Invitational. How does this fit into the landscape of Los Angeles contemporary art? Well, it cuts out all the crap of bells and whistles and gets to the point: here are over ninety artists who are currently seeking an MFA or recently completed an MFA program in Southern California and these are works produced by them. Simple enough–and to a refreshing degree.

BOOM opened this past Friday at the Pacific Design Center’s Blue Building, where hosts den contemporary secured various PDC suites for work to be exhibited. There were four main venues to see the work: two large Northern spaces and two smaller Southern spaces, which were easily confused for unaffiliated galleries (since they didn’t have a BOOM logo on their doors, unlike the Northern two). To take the show in, you just have to go for it. There’s no contextualization, there’s no setup, and there doesn’t seem to be a specified flow to how the show is laid out: these are ninetysomething MFA students from the area–FEAST.

There was a lot to feast on too, laid out everywhere for you to grab and chomp on. The artists who excelled were the ones who were clever without being clever, the ones who could transport you to a mental space or give a feeling before you walked away shaking your head. Ashley Hagen‘s Painting of a Box Spring Stuffed with Toys and Kathleen Melian‘s Untitled stood as the best testaments to this, their work calling your attention and for further inspection. Kim Ye had a similar affect with her almost engulfing Too Much, which consumed the front of a gallery space with waxy, red, intestinal pillows. Anitra Haendel‘s The Swiffing Sisters and the work of Joe Lloyd were both unafraid to be bright and colorful and complicated. Marten Elder and Joshua Mark Logan brought appropriate cleverness, Elder in his cyclical stone work and Logan in his hysterical and simple visual odes to Academy Supporting Actor nominees. The show shared a few familiar faces–like Ye and Elder, both of UCLA–but also a few that were unexpected because they were so familiar. For example, I believe I shrieked when we got to see Ryan Perez’s B.O.G.O. Vision in person and got to see Janna Ireland’s Altars To Southern California (above) once again in person. It’s moments like these where you feel like your favorite baseball player hit a homerun–and you caught the ball.

As you can tell, this variety in subjects and expression are naturally contemporary and quite exhilarating: you take them in on their own terms. There were corner consuming light and space pieces, there were installations, there were giant paintings, there were pieces that made you laugh, pieces that made you change your point of view, there were pieces that made you shrug, pieces that you loved, and even pieces that you didn’t care for or thought, “Well, I would just change that and then it’d be perfect.” There was a lot! BOOM isn’t very interested in what you think, though: it’s interested in setting up the current artistic landscape by showing you exactly what the landscape is through the artists learning here from artists who live here. You get some CalArts, you get some Otis, some UCI, some Claremont, Art Center, UCLA, Cal State Northridge, UCSB, and Long Beach State.

The show doesn’t necessarily differentiate artists from each other or taxonomize them by schools or medium. This is perhaps the only flaw of the show (that and the fact that the reception ended at 8PM on Friday, which was a shame since people who get out of work at 7PM had to breeze through the spaces) as there is no way to connect intellectual similarities innate to the artists’ MFA programs. This is likely because the PDC spaces are so weird–each of them triangular and long with various cubbies–that it would be impossible to group artists due to the variety of media. What the show excels at is that it’s all in the same location and that everything is incredibly varied and that is okay.

The artists in BOOM are all growing and learning and figuring out their footing. Unlike Made In L.A. and PST, BOOM can afford to be a little rough around the edges as it isn’t seeking to jump on a high horse, spread artwork around miles and miles of Los Angeles, and make you do silly things like attend performances at midnight or vote on who made you smile the most. BOOM is very much like the Tag Team song “Whoomp (There It Is)“: BOOM–here’s art made by current Southern California MFA students. It isn’t an obnoxious show, it won’t overstay its welcome, and it certainly is something to show you exactly what is going on at the core of contemporary art in Southern California. Thank heavens it is as simple as that.