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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

December 12, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

Abstract painting has become synonymous with modernism. It has a rich genealogy ranging from early Cubism to the Minimalists. A current revival of the genre among younger artists, however, has little to do with this tradition. Their work simulates abstraction, analyzing its language, style and economic context by reducing it to a system.

Meyer Vaisman is a good case in point. A Venezuelan working in New York, he bases most of his art on the photographic enlargement of burlap. Canvas, traditional carrier of painting, itself becomes a subject via mechanical reproduction. The results closely resemble a muddy geometric grid, each divided by one or more vertical white lines (allusions to Barnett Newman, perhaps). Vaisman compounds this sense of production-line repetition by employing a palette limited strictly to the process inks of photo-color separation: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

In a sense, he is resurrecting the spectacle of painting, only to revamp it through the banal materials and language of graphic design. Painterly representation itself is conspicuously absent, signified either by caricature, blank portraits or appropriated imagery.

Vaisman confuses this simple exploitation-and-critique of the market economy by introducing a parallel motif of biological reproduction. By stacking his canvases (often four deep) against the wall, the works resemble mattresses, seducing the viewer literally and metaphorically into considering conspicuous consumption as a surrogate form of sexual satisfaction. If we accept his aesthetic critique, then we must logically reject his art. (Daniel Weinberg, 619 N. Almont Drive, to Jan. 10.)

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