Gary Lang’s circle paintings, perhaps the most monumental of his oeuvre, might be the most intimate, too. “Rising,” his current exhibition at Ace Gallery Beverly Hills, includes a number of these pieces, as well as other works from the past 10 years, and a group of new paintings. Each circle painting records Lang’s meditations on color in concentric rings, condensing sfumato and swings of mood, moments of control and the marks of each brushstroke. Every color and cognitive state Lang painted and experienced over the course of making these paintings coalesces into a massive illusionistic object, generating their own gravitational pull, and inducing a state of vertigo. While they are experienced as physical and monolithic from afar, they remain delicate and fleeting up close.
Water Twister (2010) and Water #2 (2007), like Lang’s circle paintings, deliver a cumulative effect, but without the gravitational center. This (literally) de-centered approach poses questions about consciousness, as if Lang’s thought process had become unhinged, and spread through a Petri dish. The fluorescent, dark electric colors of Water #2, for example, sprout into coral shapes or interlocking flora, twisting together a sense of tropical and bacterial.
Lang’s meditations in color can be enjoyed as purely physical experiences, but can also, as with his word paintings, demand reciprocal patience and devotion from the viewer. The text of these paintings contains no spaces, and lines break in the middle of words. Whether the viewer lets the words bubble up, or pieces together the whole phrase, it’s an act everyone is privately familiar with: extracting clarity and truth from the opacity of thought, where language can be clouded by the haze and color of emotions.
Rising (2015), the show’s centerpiece, is a new style for Lang, but has the same emotional and sensory complexities as his other work. This towering, 19-by-12-foot grid of 24 paintings looks arm-deep with overlapping propeller shapes and their individual parts. It has the weight of scrap metal piling up, but the delicateness of flower petals slowly falling. It’s somber but somehow blooming with color. Approaching it feels like walking into a column of ash and confetti—just one of the many contradictions and improbabilities that Lang so convincingly makes visceral.
Gary Lang, “Rising,” September 10 – November 12, 2016 at Ace Gallery, 9430 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. acegallery.net