It is technically autumn in Los Angeles – though you wouldn’t know it from the leaves, which remain green and firmly attached to the trees. Despite the lack of cues from Mother Nature, galleries across the city embraced the new season with a plethora of shows opening last month. Painting was prevalent, if not dominant, around town and abstract painting in particular made a strong showing. Below is a quick look at some of the standout shows in that category.
Iva Gueorguieva: Spill / Frame, ACME
6th September – 12th October
It’s difficult to look at Iva Gueorguieva’s paintings without noticing references to early twentieth century works by artists like Picasso, Kandinsky, Marc, or the Futurists. Likewise, when confronted with Seated Woman: 1974 (2013), one of Gueorguieva’s new paintings currently on view at ACME, it’s almost impossible not to think of de Kooning’s well-known painting Woman, I (1950-52). Here the similarities reach beyond subject matter and style to the fact that both artists present seemingly chaotic scenes that have actually been painstakingly crafted.
That theme of ‘controlled chaos’ runs through all of Gueorguieva’s work in this show. Her abstracted images pulse and zip and shift, but the action is always neatly confined within the picture frame, like a pile of debris swept up at the center of the canvas. The largest work in the show, a 15-foot long triptych titled Man Hunt (2013), is a good example of this. While the action on the three panels combine into one cohesive image, each panel also contains its own internal logic separate from the whole. Gueorguieva also created three large wall sculptures for this show that nicely compliment her paintings. A logical extension of her practice, they read like paintings that are attempting to escape their frame in every direction – chaos controlled in three dimensions.
Brenna Youngblood: Activision, Honor Fraser Gallery
12th September – 26th October
Brenna Youngblood’s large new paintings at Honor Fraser Gallery force the viewer to consider the objects and photographs that sparsely adorn their surfaces. Some of these objects can be seen easily, others are hidden within the dense surfaces of the paintings forcing the viewer to determine what’s real, what’s image, and what’s paint. It seems reasonable to assume that Youngblood is interested in how we assign meaning to these signs, images, and objects based on their context, their relationship to one another, and our own unique life experiences.
My favorite work, Trifecta (2013), deviates a bit from the other work in the show. From what I could tell, no external objects were added to the surface, implying that the painting itself was the object up for consideration. The work is a triptych, with two colorful wooden panels flanking a black wooden panel at the center. All three employ thin, transparent washes of paint that give the surface both a light, airy quality and a sense of depth. Quite simply, it’s a damn pretty painting.
Lester Monzon: New Works, Mark Moore Gallery
14th September – 12th October
Over at Mark Moore Gallery, artist Lester Monzon was able to comfortably fit 21 new paintings into the gallery’s small project room to great effect. Despite the intimate scale of his paintings – or perhaps because of it – Monzon seems incredibly comfortable experimenting with his medium. As a whole, the many canvases read like a cohesive project devoted to this experimentation. Individually, the small paintings feel like carefully crafted gems, any of which I would have been happy to take home with me.
Many of the works expose a gridded under-painting – presumably a structure Monzon imposes upon himself, perhaps as a starting point. Sometimes the grid becomes a major part of the final image, as in Untitled #23 (2013). In other paintings, like Untitled #7 (2013), the grid is abandoned, covered over, or was never there to begin with. The results of Monzon’s methods are paintings look undeniably contemporary, evocative of a number of painters working today who feel free to utilize any painting style or techniques without burdening themselves with the task of creating something monumental.
Jeffrey Gibson: The Spirits Refuse Without A Body, Shoshana Wayne Gallery
7th September - 26th October
The influence of rave culture on Jeffrey Gibson’s new paintings at Shoshana Wayne Gallery is palpable. Thin bars and sharp triangles dance around their surfaces, crossing and mixing like colored light beams in a laser show. The paintings are composed of multiple, irregularly shaped panels that fit together like a puzzle to create a larger, equally irregular shape. Gibson uses animal hide in place of canvas and from the side the paintings look like tightly stretched drums. It is easy to imagine them producing a pulsing beat.
The Spirits Refuse Without A Body is a fun show, full of energy. Along with the paintings, the installation includes actual fluorescents lights covered in rawhide, a large sculpture based on a Native American tool used to transport heavy loads, and two punching bags decorated with glass beads, sequins, and Mongolian goat fur. The punching bags, titled Cloudbuster and Beauty (both 2013) made me literally laugh out loud when I first saw them. No small feat for a work of art.
Kevin Appel, Christopher Grimes Gallery
13th September – 2nd November
Kevin Appel’s new paintings at Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica seem very serious. Maybe it’s all the black and white paint. Maybe it’s the photographs of the California desert printed on the canvas. Maybe it’s the fact that the paint layers covering up those photographs somehow seem more mechanical than the machine-made images themselves. Maybe I just don’t quite understand them.
Either way, these paintings also seem very important. I feel compelled to suggest that people see them, though I can’t articulate exactly why. Maybe I’ll have a better idea once I’ve seen the show a few more times myself.