Tension yields to stasis in 15 works
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
SCULPTOR RICHARD REZAC’S three modestly sized wall sculptures are all wondrously wacky.
MARK GROTJAHN’S “Paintings” are uniform and generally symmetrical with a plant-like motif.