When Jan Corey Helford and her husband, Bruce, founded the Corey Helford Gallery in 2006, they created a space that supported the growth of emerging and established artists and evolved into one of the premier galleries of “new contemporary” art in Downtown.
Within the walls of its 12,000-square-foot building on South Anderson Street, CHG has welcomed a diverse collective of artists whose voices tell stories, both introspective and commentative, from around the world and whose artwork now hangs in the gallery’s new featured exhibitions: “Fight to Live in the Void,” “All Creatures Great and Small” and “In Our Nature.”
‘Fight to Live in the Void’
In the main gallery, the emotional and turbulent works of Japanese artist Hikari Shimoda are laid bare in “Fight to Live in the Void,” a collection that Shimoda described as her personal reflection of a world that’s on a path of turmoil and despair. Much of her work is done using collaged newspapers, which together form portraits that lie at the intersection of innocence and horror.
“We’ve had so much despair and upheaval in the world in the past couple of years, and a lot of what Shimoda’s expressing in these paintings comes from what was happening in those past two years,” gallery director Sherri Trahan said. “She wants to bring about a sense of truthfulness, positivity and moving forward.”
With her sixth solo show at CHG, Shimoda has used her trademark illustrative and colorful style to visualize her thoughts on today’s society through depictions of children.
“These kids prevail through everything that happens to them, and they help each other,” Trahan described. “Shimoda is inspired by Japanese manga, and she’s creating this world where her kids are protectors and defenders. They’re learning how to help and support each other and all humankind. … It is incredibly intelligent, and her artworks are thought provoking.”
‘All Creatures Great and Small’
In CHG’s “Gallery 2,” a five-artist exhibition featuring Ewa Prończuk-Kuziak, Dewi Plass, Matt Dangler, Richard Ahnert and Phillip Singer takes viewers on an animal-centric, ruminative journey. “All Creatures Great and Small” was formed by combining this multinational collective of artists, whose art has been compiled to create an eclectic breadth of work.
“We started with a couple of the artists when we were trying to work out shows … and we started realizing that some of these artists would team up really well together,” Trahan explained. “It’s a combination of what we do as a gallery frequently, which is pop surrealism and figurative with the narrative. That’s what Corey Helford Gallery is known for along with street art. So, these artists tend to fall in a combination of the pop surrealism and the figurative with the narrative categories, and they’re all animals but mythical creatures at the same time.”
In Ewa Prończuk-Kuziak’s show, “Life is Good,” her oil paintings are a combination of still life, nature and fantasy that depict rainbow-colored visions of vibrant animals that are made of materials, as if woven out of thread and decorative fabrics.
While in the process of creating her work, the Polish artist was going through a pregnancy and the experience of becoming a mother for the first time.
“You have so much responsibility on you and you’re trying to make everything happen and everything work, and at the same time you have to protect yourself and who you are as a person while still getting ready to watch out for this new defenseless being that you’re creating,” Trahan said. “A lot of the show stems from that and the animals that have the spikes coming from them. Those are both protective spikes to protect themselves and they’re also almost like jewelry showing who they are.”
With acrylic as her medium, Dutch artist Dewi Plass’ “Entanglements” places animals at center stage within surrealist worlds that invite the viewer to let go of all that’s familiar and instead explore the unexpected. For example, her painting “Shielded” depicts hummingbirds and bumblebees coexisting around a spool of thread. In the wild, both creatures typically avoid contact with one another because they compete for the same food source: nectar.
“These creatures survive together,” Trahan observed. “They’re not at odds with each other. They’re happy with each other. … They don’t need to feel in conflict with each other, and we should probably take a note from them.”
In Matt Dangler’s new series, “The Mystical Circus,” the American artist’s mystical paintings seek to shed light on the darker side of the art and entertainment industries that he has experienced firsthand.
“This idea has been in development throughout my life, watching myself and society perform out of ego, trying to impress one another,” Dangler shared. “However, the more I explored this behavior, I began to realize the only person we need to impress is ourself.”
With his new series, “Memento,” Toronto-based artist Richard Ahnert uses the relationship between animals and humans to explore themes of emotion, metaphor and narrative with a satirical twist. His anthropomorphic paintings address real and imagined moments of home life and layer them with warmth, wit and nostalgia.
“This collection captures those simple moments that preface what’s to come,” Ahnert said. “These moments are in and of themselves fleeting, unimportant, but somehow, looking back upon a time, a place, these nothings can add up to everything.”
Within American surreal oil painter Phillip Singer’s work, “Adaptation,” Singer combines his love for surrealism with his appreciation of 18th century painters to create a collection that places ordinary animals in extraordinary settings, like a lamb that fills an entire room.
“It’s really important with Philip and his work that he wants you to still have the feeling that you’re a kid at heart,” Trahan said. “He really wants to express that in his paintings. … You need foster and nurture your inner child.
“There’s a lot of fantasy at play with all these characters. They’re in situations that don’t exist in real life, but they’re captured in such a way that you believe it; you want to believe it.”
‘In Our Nature’
From the moment when the CHG team caught a glimpse of Ryoko Kaneta’s paintings in one of the gallery’s group shows, it was love at first sight. Today, CHG has unveiled the Tokyo-based artist’s U.S. solo debut in “Gallery 3.”
“We fell in love with her immediately,” Trahan described. “We were drawn to her message. We were drawn to her girls. We were drawn to the way she expresses the world through her characters.”
Kaneta is one of the leading voices in Japan’s up-and-coming generation of artists, and her newest work, “In Our Nature,” uses the female figure to personify elements of nature, including the phenomenon of weather and dramatic seasonal transformations, across dreamlike landscapes.
“The girls in my pieces, which are both large and small, embody nature and its many elements, along with invisible things such as signs and memories,” Kaneta shared. “The characters I draw are anthropomorphic beings of nature and invisible things, similar to the feeling when Japanese people see mountains or the sea and feel the existence of God.”
Kaneta has been known to paint according to ancient Japanese philosophies, including the thought that God dwells in all beings, but also draws inspiration from anime and manga with the vibrancy of her palette.
“She’s very much telling the story of how God is in everything, and these girls are expressing the joy of this through themselves,” Trahan said. “She uses her female characters and transforms them into different elements to show that we appreciate everything around us. We appreciate our surroundings.”
From Kaneta’s philosophy-inspired personification of nature to Shimoda’s visualization of today’s world through children to the surrealism of the five artists in “All Creatures Great and Small,” each of the three exhibitions will be on display until July 30.
“We’re presenting fantasy, and some of it is steeped in reality,” Trahan said. “If you look through almost all of these shows, they bring about a sense of hopefulness and positivity and they’re bright. They have elements of playfulness to them. … It’s like a fresh beginning coming forward.”
“Fight to Live in the Void,” “All Creatures Great and Small” and “In Our Nature”
WHERE: Corey Helford Gallery, 571 S. Anderson Street, Suite 1, Los Angeles
WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays until July 30
COST: Free admission