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Peter Clothier

Peter Clothier

Posted: February 16, 2011 10:43 AM

We actually found quite a lot to like in the course of our afternoon at Bergamot Station late last week. (Bergamot, for readers unfamiliar with the topography of Los Angeles area galleries, is a former train station in Santa Monica, and has been a lively center for galleries and design studios for a number of years now. Soon, I have heard, the trains will be running through the station again. No idea how this will affect the galleries.) It has been too long since Ellie and I last made our gallery rounds, so it was a good moment for a catch-up. I mention here only a few of the highlights, with apologies to some good shows passed over and, to those mentioned, for the brevity of attention to work that deserves more than it gets here.
Our first stop was Shoshana Wayne Gallery, where we were astonished to find a painting depicting a session very much like one of our artists' groups, led by people who looked startlingly like Ellie and myself...
Group, 2010 Acrylic on canvas, 49" x 66"
(My i-phone snapshot)
... seen here at the far left. Brad Spence's paintings feature the kind of air-brushed haze with which we are familiar since Gerhard Richter opened up that possibility, so it was impossible to tell whether this particular painting was based on an actual photograph of one of our workshop sessions, but it sure looked like it. (We were with a handful of artists from our regular Tuesday group, who all agreed on the remarkable similarity; but we heard later from Shoshana herself, who had called the artist to ask, that he thought it was "some religious group"--unlikely to be us!) Spence's haze suggests an oneiric perception of reality...
Cocktail, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, 55" x 53"
(This and all images below courtesy of the gallery)
...where the absence of clear focus evokes the frailty of receding memory and the always questionable nature of reality itself.
I was intrigued by what Stephen Aldrich manages to do with cut-ups of Victorian etchings in his remarkable collages at Craig Krull Gallery. With meticulous precision that fools the eye into believing that it's looking at a singular image, Aldrich pieces together disparate images which, on closer examination, offer wonderfully surreal, often whimsical, sometimes even hilarious juxtapositions. Some of his collages create crazy, eye-catching architectural puzzles...
Point Counterpoint, 2010, collage, 18 x 24 in
Others, like the fabulous creatures invented by the appendage of one familiar animal or bird head to the body of another, content themselves with a simply visual pun...
Menagerie, 2011, Collage, 20 x 26 in
They tickle the imagination with mischievous humor and intriguing visual conundrums. Also at Craig Krull, there's a collection of exquisite, small-scale black and white photographs by Yamamoto Masao...

#1589, 2010, gelatin silver print, 10.5 x 7.5 in

#1579, date not listed, gelatin silver print, 8.8 x 5.6 in

...nature studies whose chiaroscuro effects are a superb refinement of the camera's potential. The gallery's press release appropriately evokes the haiku a a kind of verbal equivalent of these distillations of pure presence into a single, intense moment of insight.

I also loved the playfully meandering lines of Patrick Nickell's painted plaster sculptures at Rosamund Felsen Gallery. Organic, brightly colored and entertaining to the eye, Nickell's big, three-dimensional squiggles beg to be circumnavigated, changing contour with each step as they play positive against negative space in a dance that is at once, curiously, both elegant and amiably clumsy...
Gazing (blue), 2010, Acrylic, plaster, metal armature, painted wood table (lt. blue), 26 ½ x 35 x 21", table 32 3/8 x 27 ½ x 22 ½"
These structures work well not only individually, but with each other...
The Lending Library Lends A Hand, Installation view
The installation has its own peculiar choreography, in which the viewer is invited to play his or her own interactive part.
It seemed like a good day for visual fun. At Lora Schlesinger Gallery, we found Bruce Houston's "Nefertetes, Trucks, and Assemblages." Houston has been playing around with trucks for years--toy rigs put to work to transport disproportionately-sized ( or shaped) icons of contemporary art. They are the most fun for me when they are made to climb steps, turn the corner...
Mondrian Corner Truck, 1989, mixed media, 14 x 11 x 7 "
... or go around in circles...
Orange Truck, 2009, mixed media, 11-1/2 " in diameter
New to me were Houston's delightful "Nefertetes," combining the ancient Egyptian icon with those of our own time, whether Warhol's tomato soup can...
Warhol Nefertete, 1995-1996, mixed media, 9-1/2 x 8 x 8in
... Jackson Pollock, or Groucho Marx. These small satires make us laugh, but also challenge us to reconsider how cherished cultural icons can morph swiftly into cliches---unless we manage to somehow reinvent them.
A highlight of our tour was the discovery of a gallery that's new to me, though its doors have been open for several months now. Luis de Jesus (not to be confused with long-standing La Luz De Jesus Gallery, also in Los Angeles) seems focussed on bringing in new work from outside Los Angeles, currently Margie Livingston from Seattle and Geoffrey Todd Smith from Chicago. Both are addicted to bold color, and both flirt with--but, I think, escape--the salacious temptations of pure eye candy. Todd Smith's engaging small paintings create intricate patterns out of myriad, carefully hand-painted ovate dots...
Spectral Hex, 2010, Gouache, ink and acrylic on panel, 12 x 12 in
Exotic Socks on an Erotic Fox, 2010, Gouache, ink and acrylic on panel, 20 x 16 in
... which set the eye dancing in somewhat the same manner as op-art. Margie Livingston creates delicious three-dimensional objects out of nothing but pure acrylic paint. In this installation, hundreds of multi-colored disks--tiddlywinks, anyone?--form an eye-level line around the entire gallery wall, or are stacked in a twenty-foot high line from floor to ceiling...
Paint Objects, Installation Shot

Paint Objects, Installation Shot

Strands of pure color are woven into solid eggs--some chopped open, like geodes...

Paint Objects, Installation Shot

... to display their interior layers. Large, paper-thin sheets of poured paint are folded like blankets or hung against the wall. This is "painting" joyfully redefined.
There was much more to see, but I'll have to content myself with one last stop, at William Turner Gallery, to see an old friend, the painter Ned Evans. I'm no painter myself, but Evans, surely, is one of those people we mean when we're taking about a "painter's painter." This installation includes a series of strong, bold works which bear the stamp of someone who knows what he's doing with color and form, and does it with the authority of one who has been at it a long time, and with at least the appearance of ease. They are formally elegant variations on a theme, musical in structure, rhythmic in progression...
JOGU, acrylic on canvas, 78x94
ZANBIL, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 30x48
GOA, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 18x16
They invite us to follow that progression from painting to painting, and deepen our perception of each one as we go. They are also knowledgeable paintings, steeped in art history. As I looked around the gallery walls, I found myself thinking about Paul Klee, about Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase," and about a whole range of late twentieth century American painters. A thoroughly satisfying experience.