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


Round Too: Durden and Ray Gets It Right – Again

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Curated by Max Presneill, Round Too – the second half of Durden and Ray’s opening – is strong, sensual, and smart.

Featuring artists  Jorin Bossen, Gul Cagin, Sijia Chen, Lana Duong, Ed Gomez, Brian Thomas Jones, Chris Mercier, Ty Pownall, Nano Rubio, Curtis Stage, Valerie Wilcox, and Steven Wolkoff, the exhibition has a cool, clean look from its colors to its spacing.  Both the style of the cohesive exhibition and that of the artists’ represented is innately different from the first half of gallery’s inaugural, Round Won.

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Christopher Mercier’s “In Proximity” describes his work as “an art conservator’s disaster.” Using frames to build new space, Mercier works with “Just paint. No rubber, no plastic, it’s just painting and the frame, latex, enamel, oil, water based ink,” he explains. By refolding the frames, Mercier has expanded the space in his wall sculpture to bring the painting into a three-dimensional space.

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The incredibly thick paint and even the artist’s unique use of space evokes the Excessivist movement. The piece is an encompassing 24 x 96 x 18 inches.

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Equally fascinating is the very different work by Nano Rubio, “Anti Flag.”

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Oil, acrylic, and spray paint on canvas, the work employs techniques Rubio often used in customizing cars. “There are lots of pin striping tools that I use, and I like to build up layers. I like the idea of trickery, that things can change your perception. Yes, the piece can be ready as very political,” he asserts.

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“Things are getting grittier to deal with politics in the California landscape.”

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Ty Pownall created his “Untitled (single fade out)” right on site. Comprised of steel, sand, and spray paint, the work needs to be created from scratch whenever Pownall exhibits it.

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“It’s loose sand raised on a steel sheet. The pigment is sifted on with a screen, you essentially tap it on in order to put the particulate on top. I do it all on site.” The piece seems to fade off into infinity at one end, creating an image that is both one of perfection and incompletion.

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Valerie Wilcox’ “Passage” is a mixed media work in cool whites, off-whites, grey and green. It’s both bold and ghostly; both all angular lines and soft colors.

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Steven Wolkoff, who curated the first half of Durden & Ray’s opening, here offers “High Adventure (a pile of gummy behrs).”


Using Behr acrylic house paint to create his miniature paint bears, Wolkoff’s deliciously tactile work is available at a crazy-reasonable cost: $5 per bear. Good enough to eat, but don’t.

The impressionist abstract of Sijia Chen’s “Stray;” the photo diptych of Brian Thomas-Jones “Untitled (Green/Tan),” which fits visually with Wilcox’ “Passage” like they were destined to be shown together; and Gul Gain’s “To Look Aimlessly,” an abstract that looks as if a head was literally exploding other shadowy forms around it – are among the other standouts in a strong exhibition.

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Above, Durden and Ray’s Dani Dodge with curator Max Presneill.

The Durden and Ray collective continues to hit their art out of the ballpark – rarely has a gallery’s “opening season” looked so good.

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Durden and Ray is located at 1923 S. Santa Fe Avenue in a building now brimming with art galleries, including CB1.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis




Durden and Ray: New Space, Same Passion

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Art collectives are a wonderful thing. They bring together and support groups of artists whose eclectic and powerful work deserves a showcase which it might not find with a solo approach.

Durden and Ray are one such collective, and they have recently made a move – from a loft space across the street on Santa Fe Avenue to a pristine, white-wall gallery in the same complex as CB1.

Above, left, Tom Dunn’s “Mesopotamia #36,” a marvelous mix of the abstract and figurative in oil. Alongside, to the right, the brilliantly textured acrylic on canvas of Jenny Hagar, “Roja.” Both leap off the wall, as different as they are well-matched.

Yes, the space is lovely and airy, the light dancing off the walls and works, but it is the art itself, and the passionate spirit the collective represents that shines.

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Above left, artist Dani Dodge with curator Steven Wolkoff.

The opening exhibition in the new space, Round Won was curated by Steven Wolkoff, the show features artists: Dani Dodge, Tom Dunn, Roni Feldman, Jon Flack, Jenny Hager, Ben Jackel, David Leapman, Alanna Marcelletti, Max Presneill, David Spanbock, Jesse Standlea, and Alison Woods.

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Above, Alison Woods with her “Utopia,” acrylic on canvas, we have geometric patterns and vibrating lines so intense that the canvas appears layered; there are elements that evoke a collage or puzzle pieces. Viewers see a city landscape that is exploding with flora and fauna.

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Above, Allana Marceletti, left, near her “Daae,” a sculptural collage of found objects, acrylic, and metal on organza with seatbelt straps. Hang on for the ride. Next to her is Dani Dodge, whose installation, “Ashes,”  is comprised of glass containing the burnt ashes of articulated, written fears.  While very different conceptually, both pieces feature sheer, almost fragile visual depth, and pull the viewer into a landscape that is shimmery and mutable.

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Max Presneill stands before his oil and enamel “RD 141.” Bold graphics and lines, shapes that stand entirely on their own yet coalesce into a vivid whole.  Presneill wants viewers to experience his bright, visceral work from the perspective of the “system of languages we call painting.”

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David Spanbock’s candy colored acrylic on linen, “The Politics of Transformation,” is a dimensional, unique take on urban life and environment.

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And what would an urban environment be without a few fire hydrants? Ben Jackel’s “Large headed hydrants (youth, middle age, elder) are stoneware and beeswax, and serve as a kind of ‘in memoriam’ to the vicissitudes of city life. The black color renders them tomb-like, yet the overall affect is lighthearted.

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Jon Flack’s “Backyard Sermon,” rear wall, takes an entirely modern approach to an iconic American subject, the itinerant preacher. Juxtaposed with Marcelletti’s sculpture and Dodge’s installation, the three works make an engaging commentary on things both profound and redemptive.

Both collectively and through each artist’s work, Round Won is more than ready for prime time.

This will be a two-part opening introducing the 24 members of Durden and Ray  – Round Too, curated by Max Presneill, will open April 1st.

The show runs through March 19th. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday noon-4 p.m. The new space is located at 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave. in DTLA.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Genie Davis

Durden and Ray – Remains

Remains at Durden and Ray - DTLA
All photos: Jack Burke



Just in time for Thanksgiving, running through November 28th is the perfect exhibition to be thankful for – Remains. This group show offers abstract painting “against the tide of mortality,” according to exhibition notes. Artists showing include: Ingrid Calame, Tomory Dodge, Scott Everingham, Jenny Hager, Alex Kroll, Susan Lizotte, Clive McCarthy, Max Presneill, Bryan Ricci, Kimberly Rowe, David Spanbock, Britton Tolliver, Steven Wolkoff.

The exhibition deals with mortality, what exists, what is, what is mortal, what – like art – lives on beyond our own plane of existence. Pretty weighty stuff, with no easy answers, and a bountiful visual feast as well.  We were able to discuss a number of the provocative pieces with their creators.



Artist Scott Everingham says “I see myself as part painter, part architect.  I build spaces in which nothing is planned beforehand. I try to reveal elements that build a constructive space.” Here his works have an ethereal floating quality in which nothing is quite grounded. Everingham explains “There’s a deconstructed life guard tower floating, and it feels like the beach, but it’s all color palette, and I built on that.” In short: a vision that could be memory, could be Heaven, could be fragments of a forgotten past.

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Steven Wolkoff literally created a thousand “names” out of solid paint, as an homage to Anish Kapoor. Vibrant, filled with motion, what’s in a name, anyway? The substance we give it.


Bryan Ricci’s created his Fringe through a layering process that ties in with the many layers of perception the exhibition itself seeks to express. “For me, the layering of stains and paint and the application is more important than even the image the work creates,” Ricci says.


Jenny Hager’s Forked Tongues refers to the techno music she listens to when she works. “When I struggle on a title, I’ll pick up on something repetitious that I heard in a song. When I heard this phrase, I felt it dealt with the binary nature of beauty and darkness, so I used paints that glow like the sunset and warning signs.” Hager says she was interested in moving into something that “talked about the darkness or things we keep hidden, but the color palette and singularity is pretty consistent with all my current work.”



Kimberly Rowe’s Happiness Calls for a Party gets its name from the effect that the black, velvety oil paint center has on the periphery of this otherwise acrylic painting.  “It allows the rhythm, and the music, and the cheer of the flourishes, and brush marks, and bold color that surround it, to shine.  The result is an embodiment of one of the tenets of my life: to increase happiness, decrease unhappiness,” she says. “That isn’t to say I believe in burying my problems.  But if I focus on joy, I see more of it.  In other words, if I want it, I set out to create it.  What better way to drum up at least a handful of happiness is there than to throw a party and dance?!  Just thinking of it brings a smile to my face.” Her painting will bring a smile to viewers, too. 


Max Presneill, who curated this exhibition and has a work in it, describes the show as a lead-in to a bigger exhibition planned for the Torrance Museum of Art next June. Presneill is TAM’s director, and the upcoming show will be titled Grafferists. Presneill notes “In the context of this exhibition, my piece is concerned with the act of art making itself.”

So if you’re looking for something to put a little profundity in your Thanksgiving weekend, hit Durden and Ray’s Project Space at 1950 S. Sante Fe, unit # 207, Los Angeles, CA 90021

Hours: Saturdays 11:30-5:30, or by appointment.

  • Genie Davis; all photos: Jack Burke