Ten­sion yields to sta­sis in 15 works

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By David Pagel

Al­most 150 years ago, Friedrich Ni­et­zsche in­vited us to think of wis­dom as a di­ges­tive track is­sue.

Rather than get­ting stuck in the mind-body du­al­ism that had dogged Euro­pean phi­los­o­phy from Plato’s day, the Ger­man philoso­pher sug­gested we di­gest ideas in the same way we di­gest food: drawing sus­te­nance from the good stuff and elim­i­nat­ing the rest.

Mark Grot­jahn’s ex­hi­bi­tion at Blum & Poe brings th­ese ideas to mind be­cause it is made up of works that are them­selves made up of undi­gested inf lu­ences. If Ni­et­zsche were alive to­day, he might say that Grot­jahn’s paint­ings were con­sti­pated — in need of a lax­a­tive to break free of the con­stric­tive grip of their sources.

Ti­tled “Fif­teen Paint­ings,” the L.A. artist’s eighth home­town solo show de­liv­ers ex­actly that: 15 modestly scaled paint­ings. Each con­sists of a sheet of card­board that Grot­jahn has cov­ered with loads of vig­or­ously worked oil paint and mounted on linen.

The com­po­si­tions are uni­form and gen­er­ally sym­met­ri­cal, with a plant-like mo­tif ver­ti­cally bi­sect­ing the ver­ti­cal works. Strong lines, of­ten made with pal­ette knives, pile atop one an­other, cre­at­ing a claus­tro­pho­bic, com­pacted at­mos­phere.

Some of the lines arc to­gether, form­ing spear­shaped sec­tions that re­call leaves. Most, how­ever, strug­gle to ex­tract them­selves from the grav­i­ta­tional tug of the cen­tral axis. This keeps a tight leash on Grot­jahn’s com­po­si­tions, which squeeze the space.

There is no room for move­ment. Ten­sion gives way to sta­sis. The mud­dled colors are suf­fo­cat­ing.

Vis­i­tors are left with a dis­ser­ta­tion-wor­thy slew of sources, both early 20th cen­tury pain­ters and con­tem­po­raries. Th­ese in­clude Pi­casso, Braque and Joseph Stella, as well as Lee Mul­li­can, Michael Reaf­s­ny­der and He­len Re­bekah Gar­ber. That’s great com­pany. But Grot­jahn’s aca­demic ab­strac­tions are too tight­fisted and stingy to add much that is vi­tal to the mix. Blum & Poe, 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los An­ge­les, (310) 836-2062, through June 20. Closed Sun­days and Mon­days. www.blumand­poe.com such rea­son­able peo­ple.

At Marc Foxx, three modestly sized wall sculp­tures by Rezac are so won­drously wacky in their ef­fi­ciently en­gi­neered ec­cen­tric­ity that they make pre­ci­sion and goofi­ness seem to be a match made in heaven — just the right mix of im­pos­si­ble-to-im­prove-upon res­o­lu­tion and out-of-left-field nut­ti­ness.

Rezac’s sculp­tures slip, promis­cu­ously and provoca­tively, be­tween and among the cat­e­gories into which we usu­ally put ob­jects. As works of art, they func­tion as sculp­tural re­liefs, geo­met­ric paint­ings and ab­stract draw­ings. As com­po­nents of ar­chi­tec­ture, they put you in mind of scaled-down mod­els and life-size or­na­men­ta­tion. As pieces of do­mes­tic hard­ware, they oc­cupy the same space as door­knobs and drawer pulls, but they make the space around them seem to ex­pand, as if there were more room in the world be­cause they are in it.

Each con­sists of 10 to 12 parts, usu­ally im­pec­ca­bly pol­ished cuboids, pint-sized beams and rec­tan­gu­lar boards. All pair wood (bare and painted) with metal (bare and plated). The pal­ette is ma­chine el­e­gant: cop­per, bronze and chrome as well as bright yel­low, pale white, soft blue, frothy aqua and warm beige.

The joints are tight: pre­cisely mea­sured, mas­ter­fully fas­tened and seam­lessly fit­ted. The im­pec­ca­ble or­der­li­ness is off­set by Rezac’s com­po­si­tions, which tend to be di­ag­o­nal, off-kil­ter and out of step with ra­tio­nal ex­pec­ta­tions, the laws of grav­ity and the struc­tural logic of con­ven­tional sys­tems.

If dyslexic min­i­mal­ism were a move­ment, Rezac would be its leader. Each of his per­cep­tion-en­hanc­ing pieces demon­strates that face-to-face ex­pe­ri­ences are far more nu­anced than the cat­e­gories into which we put them and the words we use to de­scribe them. The devil may be in the de­tails, but so is ev­ery­thing else. Marc Foxx, 6150 Wil­shire Blvd., No. 5, Los An­ge­les, (323) 857-5571, through June 27. Closed Sun­days and Mon­days. www.mar­c­foxx.com

Tom VanEynde Marc Foxx Galler y

SCULP­TOR RICHARD REZAC’S three modestly sized wall sculp­tures are all won­drously wacky.

Dou­glas M. Parker Stu­dio

MARK GROT­JAHN’S “Paint­ings” are uni­form and gen­er­ally sym­met­ri­cal with a plant-like mo­tif.

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