Pick of the Week

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Kelly McLane

So often is the label Surrealism tacked onto fantasy art that, in descriptions of contemporary work, it’s become practically synonymous with utopian scenes or lowbrow. Kelly McLane‘s loose dystopic pictures are the opposite of such reductionistic definitions; yet she appears among the best contemporary heirs to the Surrealist movement. Unfolding like bad dreams, her free-flowing paintings excavate society’s sordid depths, discharging pain and havoc from our collective subconsciousness. The artist terms our turbulent society’s ills “cultural dementia.” Her current show at DENK, ecofeministically titled “Peckerwoods,” illustrates this diagnosis via scenes of nature and quotidian life gone awry. Here, McLane employs her signature washed-out passages blending drawing and painting, beauty and grotesqueness; but since her last solo show several years ago, she has expanded her repertoire. New techniques including ligneous scarification enhance her pictures’ incisive urgency. In Deerberry Season (pictured above; all works 2017), a giant grinning rubber duck balefully looms behind a buck whose towering, sanguine antlers contradict his gangly fawn-like physique. The artificial toy appears to be herding the animal towards the edge of a cliff. Symbolizing natural destruction, the deer’s lacerate outline is partially carved into the panel. Overt carnage in Big Bird’s Got A Gun, Birds Born Blind and several drawings piercingly evokes notorious slews of recent violence. It’s been too long since a McLane show. Those who don’t know her work should; and those who do will be impressed by its development.

 

DENK Gallery
749 E. Temple St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Show runs through Nov. 22

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Sayre Gomez

In a corridor just inside Ghebaly Gallery, a faded sign, barely legible for its low contrast, reads “Déjà Vu.” This isn’t merely a placard bearing the title of Sayre Gomez‘ show; it’s an integral painting whose dual function niftily preludes the awaiting parade of trompe l’oeil paintings. Inside the exhibition space, you’re confronted with a glass door whose commercial exterior appearance blatantly disjoins its white-walled environs. But it isn’t really a door; it’s Behind Door # 2 (2017, pictured above), a lifelike painting hung to appear as though you could open it and step inside. Furthering this incongruence, a gorgeous tropical sunset lies beyond the threshold. On this autumn afternoon, you almost wish it were real—but as you approach, trompe l’oeil inkjet dots emerge, revealing the sunset as a second layer of artifice. Such wonder followed by wistfulness pervades the total installation spiraling through three rooms. Smaller paintings depict blurry buildings beyond chain link fences ascended by vine tendrils. In a more nostalgic series, stickers proclaiming fanciful self-identifications or scholastic judgments dot wooden panels as in a child’s bedroom. Trompe l’oeil painting may be resurging, but illusionism is rarely enough; spatial and conceptual context are key to success. Gomez’ paintings are impressive not only for their technical ingenuity and clever location, but especially for their strong evocations of lack of belonging.

Ghebaly Gallery
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Show runs through Nov. 18

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Van Hanos

Van Hanos‘ paintings parodizing partisan preposterousness would be utterly comical if they didn’t so mordantly reflect our circusy cultural reality. Cynically dubbed “Late American Paintings,” his current show at Chateau Shatto concentrates social discord, political vagary and digital phoniness as a magnifying glass focuses sunlight. Enhancing his works’ startling effect, Hanos applies old-fashioned oil painting finesse to such newfangled pictorial idioms as GIF’s, memes and decals. No public figure, whether actual politician or fictional cartoon, is immune to flogging by his sardonic brush. A Recent History of the United States of America (all works 2017) portrays Obama, the Holy Family, The Lizardman bursting from a Hillary Clinton costume, a Trump-masked Godzilla and a skinned corpse all gambling together round a poker table doubling as ash tray. In Trumpty Dumpty (pictured above), wrathful My Little Ponies battle Frankensteinian baby-men wearing distended presidential miens. Amid the fray, cartoon light bulbs indicate infantile strokes of inspiration. The age-old semblance of academic realism sets off these provocative collage-like compositions in the same way that eminence belies outlandish proclamation. Snakes and Ladders depicts tentacles headed by Satan and Uncle Sam writhing like cyclonic vortices. Ophidian and cephalopod domination contravenes the traditional game of which Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children protagonist declared, “The solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosities of the serpent.” Hanos’ apocalyptic caricatures breathe droll new life into the antiquated genre of history painting.


Chateau Shatto

1206 S. Maple Ave, Suite 1030
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Show runs through Nov. 11

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Nemesio Antúnez

Nemesio Antúnez (1918-1993) possessed a remarkable talent for crystallizing the spirit of certain locations and scenarios. In his small but captivating pictorial selection currently on view at Couturier Gallery, the Santiago de Chile-born, Columbia-educated artist transports us to Atacama Desert dunes, bustling New York streets, and Andes cordilleras. He opens our eyes to fleeting moments past like silhouetted bicycle handles catching the final sunrays before dusk in Paseo en bicicleta (1965). Eerie tranquility also pervades domestic scenes such as Blue Horse (1965), where a chakra-like orb of cerulean light permeates a grazing equine. The striking divergence between these visionary paintings depicting his homeland and those set in New York evinces by contrast his South American pride. In his cityscapes, spectral uniform people scurry about like black-and-white ants amid grids and boxes. Their robotic appearance and dismal geometric surroundings reveal the artist’s view of an urban world devoid of color and character. Antúnez’ seamless blending of objective reality and subjective emotion makes his abstracted dreamscapes seem existent. Op Art checks give Mujer (1963) a digital appearance. These checkers are repeated in other paintings such as The Sleepers (1964) where white wavy parallelograms define mountain planes billowing like quilts. Colorless planes again appear in Park Avenue (1966, pictured above), where skyscrapers’ shells are stripped away to reveal blank floating floors occupied by ant-people. These powerful scenes confer the uncanny impression that Antúnez transmitted his mental images directly into one’s mind.

Couturier Gallery
166 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Show runs through Nov. 11

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Ariana Papademetropoulos

With salmon walls, magenta carpet and eccentric ornament, Ariana Papademetropoulos has transformed Wilding Cran into a life-size dollhouse where you are the doll and everything is slightly off-kilter. Her show’s title, “The man who saved a dog from an imaginary fire,” refers to an acid-tripping gent who hallucinated a neighbor’s house afire and burglarized it to save their pet. This installation suggests that society is a Frankensteinan, ersatz version of pervasive fantasies. Trompe l’oeil stains punctuate brightly painted interior scenes, insinuating dismal voids beneath cheery artifice. A theatrical church uncloaks religious rituals’ Disney-esque veneer. An in-between lenticular postcard renders a pretty woman half grotesque. Laid atop a carpeted dais, a grid of gothic romance pulp novels betrays the illustrated covers’ repetitive formula of a lass running from a mansion with one lit room. This arrangement illuminates domesticity’s dark side while questioning the romanticization of damsels in distress. Furthering the fantasia, a miniature door is portal to a Philip Garner-inspired dysfunctional bedroom where a beat-up exercise bike faces a video showing the artist inside a bubble (still above), escaping her own studio building of eerily similar appearance to the book cover mansions. Culminating here, Papademetropoulos’ installation feels subversive in its comely investigation of fantasies’ embedded cultural subtexts.

 

Wilding Cran Gallery
939 S. Santa Fe Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Show runs through Oct. 26

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Monique Prieto

Monique Prieto‘s new paintings radiate magnetic simplicity. The abstractions in her elegantly spare show, “Luster,” glow as though lit from within. Each of the four diptychs currently on view at Chimento Contemporary features a pair of organic shapes, one on each panel. Arranged like mirror images, the members of each duo are roughly similar in form, slightly different in color. Rich black grounds diverge from Prieto’s usual light canvases; the enigmatic figures’ velvety textured jewel tones are deeper than her typical pastel hues. Separated by a narrow band of white wall, these diptychs make you feel as though your eyes are playing tricks on you. The contrast between black panel and white wall, and the shapes’ disparity in tint, give the impression of one eye needing to adjust to different lighting after having been covered. Vaguely resembling inkblots, minerals, figures, or body parts like bones or brains, Prieto’s primordial contours possess a totemic austerity that gives way to their lush inner fields of brushstrokes. Evoking stained glass, these sparse, luminous pictures offer meditative pause in a digital world, a refreshing antidote to society’s superfluities.

 

Chimento Contemporary
622 South Anderson Street, Space 105
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Show runs through Oct. 28

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Linda Vallejo

Linda Vallejo’s show titled “Keepin’ It Brown” affects an antique store atmosphere. Folksily arranged ceramic figurines stand atop pedestals. Walls are adorned with framed pictures of celebrities and pieces appearing as needlepoint. Embedded in this homey pop-culture veneer is sharp cultural commentary. Many of the displayed tchotchkes did come from secondhand shops; Vallejo painted their skin a few shades tanner. The conspicuousness of this relatively minor alteration highlights just how predominantly fair-skinned our cultural icons are. Vallejo’s browned versions of Elvis Presley, Bob’s Big Boy and Audrey Hepburn (pictured above) become poster children for superficial stereotyping, even as they embody it. They also bring to mind how unnaturally blanched the skin of ceramic figurines often is—a fictional colorlessness so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted. As David Batchelor observed in Chromophobia, “It is one thing not to know that Greek statues were once brilliantly painted, it is another thing not to see colour when it is still there.” Whereas Vallejo colored existing figures in her “Make ‘Em All Mexican” series, she creates images from statistics in her more recent “Brown Dot Project.” Here, dark spots, whose quantities correspond to different Latino population and workforce demographics, form symbolic pictures and abstract designs on sheets of white graph paper. These recall Agnes Martin paintings and old-fashioned embroidered handkerchiefs; but Vallejo’s contemporary Chicana sensibility is clearly disposed towards emphasizing Latinos’ societal contributions.

bG Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave., #G8A
Santa Monica, CA 91403
Show runs through Oct. 8

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Lawrence Halprin

Lawrence Halprin (1916–2009) is renowned for his landscape architecture; but 28 drawings currently on view at Edward Cella indicate that he might just as adeptly have applied his creativity towards fine art. Executed between 1943–2006, these drawings, which seem almost like pages of a visual diary, offer intimate glimpses into Halprin’s mind unfettered by architecture’s practical exigencies. He drew nearly daily, often from life but frequently adding fanciful twists that heighten his pictures’ charm, such as mask-like monster forms above forested cliffs. His diversiform drawing practice included a wide array of methods and media, ranging from refined renderings to washy abstractions to arabesque doodles. Expectedly, his primary subjects are figures, landscapes and combinations thereof. Merging of man and land appears most strikingly in the conjoined countenances of VI, Fruits of Peace series (1946, pictured above). Embodying aspects of vegetation and landscape, perhaps these faces represent some kind of struggle between personified forces of nature. In acrid dreamlike colors, a 1944 watercolor portrays people playing pool; the table appears lawn-like. Several cubist rock studies from his master-planned Sea Ranch community artificialize nature. Other pieces envisage plants as mystical characters, suggesting his penchant for parks. Ephemera and a video describing collaborations with his avant-garde dancer wife, Anna, further exemplify cross-disciplinary fruitfulness.

 

 

Edward Cella Art + Architecture
2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Show runs through Oct. 28

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