Photo Finish

Photo LA buildings

What was the best part of Photo Independent this year? Held once again in its 4th iteration at The Reef in DTLA, there were over 156 exhibitors, and it’s difficult indeed to choose.

Photo LA Kitchen

Photographer E.F. Kitchen was awarded “Best in Show,” the result being a booth at Photo Independent next year.

Here are a few of the highlights in a strong exhibition attended by over 3500 art lovers this year:

Photo LA Martin Cox

Photographer Martin Cox created photographs of images far removed from the LA zeitgeist: beautiful, wintery images of snow in Iceland. The images are from a landscape series Cox created during a residency in Iceland.

Photo LA Olie

Also far from LA: the work of Olie Marius Joergensen from Norway, justifiably dubbed “one of the top six photographers to watch” at the fair. Ethereal images with mysterious softness.

Photo L A Andy Burgess

Andy Burgess, a U.K. native now residing in Arizona enjoys working in analog rather than digital images, and his photographs have a lush aspect reminiscent of noir filmmaking. The artist is launching his own Dark Spring Press to create limited edition photography books for individual artists.

Photo LA Jane



Jane Szabo’s new series Family Matters was on display – stunningly realized simple images of still-life objects on dark backgrounds that pulse with life.

Photo LA Jane wide shot

Szabo infuses inanimate objects with history and resonance and creates visual poetry.

Photo LA Richard Chow

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Richard Chow’s luminous Urbanscape created sculptural looks at city life.

Photo LA Donn Dleson

Donn Delson’s aerial landscapes dazzled with rich abstract takes on the world from above.

Cathy Immordino

Cathy Immordino explores a fantasy landscape with a vibrant palette.

Photo LA Cathy 2

…And generously invited attendees to step inside her world. The Mars-like foreground was shot at Trona Pinnacles near Death Valley National Park.

Photo LA jessie Chaney

Jessie Chaney’s porthole-like views of the sky are haunting and quiet.

Images. Many at Photo Independent remain in the minds-eye, strong and potent.


  • Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis and courtesy of artists

The Shape of Color: Robert Soffian

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With vivid colors and shapes, artist Robert Soffian moves nimbly between the figurative and the abstract. His paintings have a sense of drama, a fluidity of emotion that is perhaps unsurprising given his past work in theater, directing, and lighting.

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Many works vibrate like a freeze-frame in a film, as in his recent “Justice,” dye, oil, and mixed media on panel. Here Soffian has created a large-scale work with faces, figures, and what resemble tribal masks. With a bright yellow at the bottom of the work and flame red at the top as background, the painting feels like a sunset on fire, with justice perhaps not so much blind as blinded by the light, color, and longing around her. His works have an element of the surreal as well as the abstract, with a movement toward the more figurative in his most recent works.

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Another recent work, “Chapel Repaired,” an oil that is a vast 80” by 60”, resembles stained glass as folk art or mosaic, and without identifying them as such, here are saints and icons and fertility symbols, here is the Rothko chapel completely revisited.

soffian Freedom of movement

“Freedom of Movement” is something else again – the words ‘please’ and ‘help’ and dark brown colors separated with a grid or fencing from a blue sea and gold sky upon which face/forms look like skulls. This is perhaps a border crossing of the spirit, or a dividing line among souls. 

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Entirely abstract is the oil, dye, gouache, ink and pastels on panel that is “kickriver,” reminiscent of Matisse.

But above all, through all, it is color that maps the way to the heart of Soffrian’s work.

“I wish to paint things we all know or dream…very often I am first motivated by the excitement of the materials I am using…obviously I enjoy vibrant colors, and the texture of the physical body of the paint…” he relates.

Soffian says he moves in contrast as well as color, and that he can sense the shape of color itself.  He uses phrases in describing his work in which he says that when he paints figures they have colored shapes and that he can sense the shape of color, even eat it. These are interesting words indeed when viewing his work, because there is a sense of the color even devouring his figures and forms. There is a deeply visceral quality to his work, something that the eye absorbs and the retains, almost as if it were printed on the mind.

soffian chapel detail

Currently residing in Los Angeles after spending many years in Northern California, the artist has also traveled extensively, and remarks on the fact that for him, every place he’s visited has had a “special light.” Along with color, it is the quality of light, an inward to outward glow that is riveting about Soffian’s work. Again, knowing the artist’s background, it is easy to see that sense of drama in his works, and that the color and the light within it is the palette of the theatrical.

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above, “Spine of the Matter”

Works on paper such as “3 Fish Friends” – which almost swims before the eye, shadings of watery blue in the background, and fish whose scales almost dance with a sort of imagined iridescence, the way sunlight can make the scales on living fish go silver and rainbow – are delicate and dreamlike. Witness “Spine of the Matter,ink, graphite, pastels, and crayon on rice paper, in which a central image of a spine –which could also be a bamboo branch – is surrounded by dark matter that could be a vision from an X-ray, all against a background of golden shades. Or “Blake Struts,” ink, gouache, and mixed media in a rainbow of colors, faces and bodies and letters, clouded abstractions, an almost alchemical mixture, something magical and shamanistic.

Soffian justice detail

With work that is entirely original, yet evokes connections to Matisse and Chagall – especially, perhaps Chagall, Soffian’s paintings are both mysterious and familiar, in motion and motionless.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Robert Soffian,  Shoebox PR

There’s Magic Made in the Mojave



The Museum of Art and History (MOAH) is a crown jewel in the Antelope Valley, a beautiful, airy modern space that makes the perfect two-story setting for the brilliant, magical exhibition Made in the Mojave.

Nine artists take on the landscape of the desert and create vibrant images from it, each original, startling, and fresh. It’s rare, frankly, to see so much beautiful art on a single subject that sings with this much meaning.

Artists include Samantha Fields, Kim Stringfellow, Carol Es, Catherine Ruane, Aline Mare, Ron Pinkerton, Nicolas Shake, Randi Hokett, and a site specific installation by Antelope Valley artist Marthe Aponte.


Samantha Field’s “Ten Years” includes stunning, large scale landscapes that depict dramatic, powerful desert scenes bordering on the apocalyptic. Filling a large first floor gallery space, these paintings offer sweeping vistas, roiling clouds, a deer seemingly both frozen and in mid-motion.


Spilling from the museum’s first floor windows, Randi Hokett’s jeweled mixed media “Crystalworks” look like desert geodes cracked open to reveal riveting beauty inside.


Catherine Ruane’s stunning black and white graphite and charcoal works feature intimate, textural visions of desert plants, starry skies, Joshua trees and yucca. “Dance Me to the Edge” pulls viewers into a world so perfectly defined one can almost feel the sharp spines, smell desert sage after a rain, caress the soft flowers.



Meticulously rendered, twelve small round drawings surround one larger central piece of a Joshua tree in bloom.


Marthe Aponte creates an installation in a darkened side room that glows with golden light. With “Memories of a Joshua Tree” she’s shaped a sensuously spiked tree and the goddess-like figures of mythological Fates.



This is work that is redolent with life and light, a portal, a beacon of life in the darkness.


Aline Mare’s “The Angle of Repose” is a lush, passionate exhibition that presents an up close look at vividly colored desert minutae, a seed pod, a poppy, tree roots. Fusing multiple images photographed, scanned, painted, and altered, these are compositions that defy simple interpretation or a single gaze.




The depths of the universe seem to emanate from a seedpod – and really, is this an illusion, or a wondrous truth?


Intense, saturated color and surreal structures made from desert discards mark the fascinating work of Nicolas Shake whose “Wasteland” combines sculptural arrangements with photographic compositions that could be the homes of interplanetary travelers.


Ron Pinkerton’s “The Last Stand” offers night skies and mysterious streaking stars, abandoned cars and empty pools, ghostly and transcendent.



Kim Stringfellow’s “The Mojave Project” documents the desert in its dangerous, transformative, and compelling glory. She takes on waste and abandonment, the complex landscape itself,  with photography, artifacts, and what will be a large scale video installation scheduled to travel the country over a two year period, bringing the desert – so close to home here in Southern California – to more distant regions.


Carol Es gives us whimsical mystical oil paintings and collaged works inspired by Joshua Tree National park locations, and an installation of a campsite inside which the artist’s short film “Up to Now” is screened.


The desert often hides its vibrant life beneath the ground until a rain, or the quiet of nightfall brings out the creatures, the flowers, the wind to play. For a look at the secret heart of the desert and its sweeping magnificence, step inside MOAH and look around. There is nothing empty about this desert exhibition.


The show runs through July 30th and is well worth the drive from LA. MOAH is located at 665 Lancaster Blvd. in Lancaster.

  • Genie Davis; Photos – Genie Davis and courtesy of artists






Art Gone Wild with Book Club: Going Native at Durden and Ray

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Stephen Wright’s post-modern novel Going Native is a wild ride of literary fiction fused with pop culture.  When an art exhibition is based around the book, and includes performance pieces and cocktails made with absinthe, then art lovers can expect a wild ride when it comes to the exhibition, too.

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Durden and Ray’s delightful and provocative “Book Club: Going Native” is indeed wild – wildly inventive and conceptually clever. Curator Steven Wolkoff assembled a cadre of visual artists, a mixologist, hair stylists, dancers, and a choreographer to create an opening that fused art with performance plus an excerpted book reading.

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While I’d only read a few chapters of the novel when the opening rolled around, it did not dim my pleasure in the experiential evening, which included the work of: Ania Catherine – choreographer, Ben Jackel – visual artist, Constance Mallinson – visual artist, Dani Dodge – visual artist, Dave Bondi – toy designer, David Leapman – visual artist, Kate Kelton – actress/artist, Gavin Bunner – visual artist, Jayna Zweiman – architect and co-founder of the Pussyhat Project, Jenny Hager – visual artist, Jon Flack – visual artist, Kio Griffith – visual artist, Liza Ryan – visual artist, Michael Webster – composer, Robin Jackson – best bartender/mixologist in LA (per LA Weekly), Steven Wolkoff – visual artist, Tom Dunn – visual artist, Traci Sakosits – Creative Director of Vidal Sassoon, North America, and Matthew Kazarian – Vidal Sassoon.

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Dancers with their hair knotted to each other spun in a circle. Mixologist Robin Jackson poured sapphire, saline solution, absinthe, and oleosaccharum into cups and candy-colored water pistols for guests to shoot into their and other’s throats. The guns themselves were crafted by toy designer David Bondi, whose design, packaged and labeled as “Durden n’ Ray” also hung from a display rack on a wall.

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Artist Dani Dodge offered up a compelling, layered painting “Previously Unthinkable Patterns.”

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The painting, a mixed-media fusion of paint, duct tape, party favors, a piece of a wedding dress and the ashes of papers that contained burned fears dripped off the canvas literally with a 72″ tulle train puddling on the ground. The ghostly shape of the car that figures large in the novel emerges from the layers like a ship through thick fog, the canvas begs to be touched, but one doesn’t touch; still the almost physiological impression of being touched by the artwork persists.

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Above, artists Dani Dodge and Kio Griffith.

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Kio Griffith’s “Whichever Wolf You Feed,” a mixed media piece of wood, sheet metal, paint, sandpaper, and a ventilation duct, oozes mystery; the mood abetted by a dancer positioned against the corner wall next to the piece.

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David Leapman’s “Salt hungry butterflies,” gold ink on black paper, has an elegaic feel that evokes calligraphy and Japanese woodblock prints. The artist contributed three similar works in all to the exhibition. Jenny Hager’s abstract “Bedlamite,” acrylic and marker on canvas, is bold and heated; Tom Dunn’s detailed, fascinating “Mesopotamia Drawing Series” functions as a kind of adjunct to the book’s chapters which are themselves a series of connected yet separate stories.

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Curator Wolkoff  created a series of “wedding rings” crafted of acrylic paint without support, they are as warped as the book’s belief system. The spacey stop-motion video of Traci Sakosits and Matthew Kazarian, “Basic Space,” compels repeated viewing, as does Dodge’s second piece in the show, the haunting “Evidence,” a video shown wall mounted on a mini-iPad.

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All eyes were turned to Jayna Zweiman’s “It considered other facts, other views,” a dark green kaleidoscope-like sculpture which guests peered through and took IG-worthy semi-selfies through.

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Constructed with mirror, plywood, and oil-based paint, the work was fabricated by Paul Guillemette and suspended from the gallery’s ceiling. The architect and co-founder of the Pussyhat Project has created a wonderful, changing fractured image that reflects both the quality of the book and a reader’s perception of it. It’s a fun house mirror take on art, life, and novel. The work’s green exterior represents the color of the stolen car driven by the novel’s protagonist.

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While seeing the exhibition without the dancers, drink, and electronic soundtrack hum is a different experience than the opening night, it is a worthy one. The art stands alone, and one could know nothing of the book and have heard nothing of the opening’s vastly entertaining art circus and still enjoy it.

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Above, a pop art distillation of the book, “Helter Skelter” by Gavin Bunner, goache and ink on paper.

Like many of Durden and Ray’s shows, this one is edgy and thought-provoking; the gallery and the art collective are building a reputation as a must-see in the crowded field of LA art.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis