Thomas Akawie is a Bay Area painter whose work is a curious amalgamation of trompe l'oeil realism, process art and light and space phenomenology. Akawie renders enigmatic objects (are they draftsman's tools, architectural details, common household objects, or reductive Minimalist geometries?) within fields of impastoed acrylic/paste that resemble simulated wood grain or stippled plaster. He then airbrushes the surface with silver or gold marble dust, fusing subject and background in an ethereal homogeneous gauziness that both reflects and refracts gallery light.
The results evoke aerial topographies, where a hidden (painted) light source casts shadows across the "landscape" to both delineate forms and highlight edges. Akawie's blurring of positive/negative space, as well as his often contradictory relationship between representation and process make for an interesting dialectic, particularly in a work such as "Shadows Reflect the Remains of Time." A painted, triangular arrangement of forms suggesting a flattened sundial is juxtaposed with a horizontal piece of wood that extends across the top of the canvas. A bent wire juts out from the wood, casting a real shadow across the ersatz chiaroscuro, a clear subversion of the intended trompe l'oeil effect of the painting.
Akawie thus sets up a painterly proposition, only to undermine it by drawing attention to artifice and representational deceits. We are ultimately left with an aesthetic of illusion, a mere canvas employing typically painterly strategies such as composition, texture, mood and light. Thus, almost by default, process is raised to the position of subject, with Akawie as an accomplished, albeit slick, executioner. (Terry De Lapp Gallery, 800 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Feb. 22.)