Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Between Abandon and Atonement

28 September 2009

Back to Thursday night (24 September) – and Saturday night (26 September) – a little late, I know (I could have used that Town Car I was, uh, ranting about, since my venerable Volvo decided to take a powder not long after I had left Kristin Calabrese’s and Josh Aster’s “Itty Bitty” show at Circus of Books; on top of which I lost my cell phone somewhere in that neighborhood. One more expensive detour I really didn’t need.) I left off talking about Mark Dutcher’s sculpture, but didn’t really address the painting; and I have to confess it was difficult to address this painting – in other words, settle my eye, my focus, upon it. Where would I find my way into the painting? How to ‘scan’, to ‘map’ it if you will, to really make sense of the palette (which was dominated by blues – lots of cobalt, Prussian, lapis, sapphire, midnight tones; many textured (including velvet, as Mark pointed out to me)? It was a very large panel. On top of which – or should I say, to the side of which – there was a separate rhomboidal panel or flange flatly painted in blue, hinging or folding out from the main rectangular panel. If I was having a hard time finding my way into the painting, this element was not helping me, nor for that matter helping me find a way out.

That Mark will eventually find his way back into the kind of painting he wants to make (and out of the labyrinth of texture, incident and other painterly problems he seems to have created for himself), I have no doubt. Of the curators, Dan and Ryan Callis, I have my doubts. But then maybe it’s just me: I confess I grew impatient trying to ‘read’ Monique Prieto’s usually very readable text paintings in that trademark Stonehenge megalith font of hers. But at least with Prieto, there’s something to challenge the eye simply in terms of the painting as a whole. Ryan Callis’s painting certainly scanned easily enough – but then most pattern-and-decoration type painting does. Certainly this is the ground for this kind of painting, though more geometricized here, with a nod to the incidental, even figurative elements. But so what? What is it getting at?

[I’m a little cantankerous, right now, aren’t I? You can see why it’s easy to let a blog go. Unless there’s something really exciting to talk about, why bother? It’ll get reviewed eventually, somewhere – hopefully by someone less jaded than I – so why not just let it go without comment? But, you know how the song goes – ‘the best is yet to come’; and so it was this particular evening. It may not keep us blogging here in L.A., but it sure keeps us going out to the art openings, concerts, movies, etc., looking for that new new thing that inspires us in a way nothing ever has before.]

Ryan’s brother/husband, Dan’s work was even more derivative – couched somewhere between a kind of semaphoric colorism and and the aforementioned pattern and decoration. The color was refreshing. It would look good as a summer print, I thought – but then we’re dressing for autumn aren’t we? In other words, could you show me something in a, uh, … INTERESTING?!! I’m not here textile shopping for Marc Jacobs. Ya know what I’m saying?

[No, I’m not going to stop now – you’ll why see in a second.] The most interesting painting – and some of the pieces were not, strictly speaking, painting – was done by an artist named Matty Byloos, whose work I’d never seen before. Speaking of texture, I wanted to get closer to the paintings (there were only two) to get a better sense of its relative thinness or flatness, saturation, and so forth – from a distance the color appeared laid down fairly thinly, perhaps scraped down – but people (the crowd was pretty heavy) kept wandering into my sightlines and so I moved on to the black-and-white drawings – completely different in character from the paintings, and perhaps even more compelling, somehow deeper on some level than the paintings, which had a certain matter-of-fact finality to them. With a foreclosure being filed roughly every seven seconds here in the U.S., what could be more timely, I thought, than paintings of houses that appeared boarded up and abandoned? But really this only scratches the (thin) surface. Abandonment and isolation are certainly keynotes here; but there is something further quietly sublimated off these surfaces, something haunted, forlorn, trapped energies, unfinished business. (Or was I just tired? Ready to get in my car and fall asleep at the wheel?)

The black-and-white drawings – which looked as if taken from some collection of stock images or photos, or handbook illustrations (or perhaps Situationist graphic images – are mostly domestic interiors, situations and genre scenes, suddenly interrupted or intruded upon by black-out balloons or clouds, black mists descending upon the centers and obscuring some critical bit of the depicted transaction. They were, like the houses, haunting and mysterious; schematic ‘bad dream’ images, in which the central action (usually involving one’s own consciousness) is somehow self-censored. I later learned that Byloos is also a writer, which does not surprise me at all – not that there is anything particularly narrative about these pieces – but all of them, paintings and ‘drawings’ (or is it the other way around?) exude an acute psychological intelligence.

There’s more to report: mostly on the group show at Carl Berg and the special showcase space he’s created upstairs on the 5th floor of the Pacific Design Center (I somehow doubt that he’s permanently annexed this space – but its current inhabitant just might make him do it.) In the meantime, remember this name: Erin Dunn.

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