REVIEWS WITHOUT SUN
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES GALLERY, SANTA MONICA
21 APRIL – 26 MAY
CHUNG KING PROJECTS, LOS ANGELES
27 APRIL – 15 JUNE
If Los Angeles ever was the culturally vacuous metropolis its detractors have The compositions are buoyant and spacious at a glance, the forms agile.
made it out to be, then it’s cashing in on that vacuity now – or, shall we say, At close range, however, the surfaces are impressively intricate, layered
reaping the benefi ts of an imaginative spaciousness. Largely unburdened with many textures of paint and strewn with slivers of photographs and
by the baggage of history, with minimal institutional infrastructure and other collage elements.
relatively reasonable real estate when you’re willing to step outside your The sculptor Anna Sew Hoy maintains a similar balance between
comfort zone, LA has tended to attract artists who thrive on spaciousness, material chaos and compositional control. The three works included in
and that community is now reaching a critical mass. There are many facets the show suggest the remnants of some kind of nuclear accident, with the
of LA art today, but one of the most intriguing is characterised by a certain innocent objects of everyday life – perfume bottles, pennies, jewellery,
imaginative vitality: a penchant for seeing things dif_f erently, for looking scraps of wood, fragments of clothing, bicycle parts – grotesquely fused
closely at what’s there and then digging up what lies beneath it, laying over into ungainly clumps.
it what has been or looking ahead to what it might become. Klonarides refers to Josh Podoll’s quirky, sci-fi -ish paintings as
In Without Sun, a group show organised across two galleries, ‘portals to another dimension’ and Case Calkins’s tall plaster sculptures
independent curator Carole Ann Klonarides assembles seven mostly as ‘receivers for transported psychic messages’, and neither seems outside
young, mostly LA-based artists (Thom Merrick lives in the desert east the realm of possibility. Podoll layers discordant patches of psychedelic
of LA and Josh Podoll in San Francisco) who are working along these pattern in pixelated compositions that resemble low-budget Flash
lines. The title refers to Chris Marker’s 1982 fi lm Sans Soleil, a fi ctional animation stills; Calkins’s works resemble nothing so much as six-foot
documentary that plays with ideas of appearance, memory and time, and towers of Swiss cheese splashed with brightly coloured pigment. Both are
the work here explores similar concerns, refl ecting on what Klonarides refers rough, clumsy and somewhat boyish in their enthusiasm, but strangely
to as ‘the notion of impermanence and the artist’s utopian need to alter this endearing nevertheless.
reality’. Each artist combines a concrete, even gritty sense of materiality Elizabeth Tremante’s oil-on-canvas landscapes are more traditional
and landscape with a kind of visionary sensibility; making works that feel like in their approach, with a cohesive sense of space and thick, gestural
windows into not so distant parallel worlds. brushstrokes. Her peculiar vantage points, however – a view of purple
The show’s most exhilarating paintings come from Dan Bayles: mid- fl owers refl ected in a mud puddle, a mountain of some kind of fungus
to large-scale canvases that waver between abstraction and landscape. against a yellow sky – give them a strangeness that rewards prolonged
Thom Merrick and Euan Macdonald are older than the other
artists by 10 to 15 years and, perhaps because their output has been more
varied, feel poorer served by the group-show format, their contributions
less distinct, though both of_f er compelling individual works. Macdonald’s
video Eclipse (2000), which depicts a soccer ball fl oating in a puddle, past
a burning refl ection of the sun, is among his most clever, and Merrick’s
oil-on-canvas desert landscapes are eerily eloquent, suggesting, like Hoy’s
sculptures, the calm of a nuclear fallout.
The irony of the show’s title is that Los Angeles is almost never
without sun – it’s inescapable, to the point of feeling, at times, as oppressive
as persistent cloud cover. It breeds a sense of possibility and a sense
of decay simultaneously, and that confusion informs all of the work
assembled here, leaving the viewer with a discomfi ting sense of utopian
visions gone awry. Holly Myers
left: Thom Merrick, Doe Drinking, 2006,
oil paint on brass, 139 x 14 x 14 cm.
Courtesy Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica
right: Dan Bayles, Proposal for a National Monument
to Paranoia, 2005, mixed media on canvas, 208 x 183 cm.
Courtesy Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica
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