Paul Knotter is associated with the ordinary objects and material juxtapositions you might find laid out at a garage sale in Mar Vista. Think of a rusty shovel set on a bit of plaid upholstery or a kidney-shaped ashtray on a swatch of Naugahyde and you've got a rough idea of his aesthetic. It's no small surprise, then, to find Knotter exhibiting a rather elegant batch of geometric abstractions named for banks: City National, Security, Sumitomo. Initially it's also a disappointment, for despite the sensitively brushed textures, varied plaid patterns and surprising touches of satin insets, these oddly titled paintings seem to have strolled into Neo-Geo turf with too little ammunition.
Fortunately, there's something going on conceptually that makes this work more interesting than it looks--though a certain leap of faith is required to grasp it and the point may be equivocal.
It's best to start with Knotter's short video, "Doing," a wonderfully satirical hymn to industrial development and technological progress concocted from stock footage of glittering high-rises and snippets of slick business presentations. The video takes the bank paintings out of a formalist context and into Knotter's accustomed world of commodities. At the same time, we realize that the plaid patterns gracing most of the paintings' central panels refer to his familiar tacky fabrics as well as to the International Style of architecture, modernist abstraction and its latter-day reruns.
If you take this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, Knotter's recent work is a sly --and reasonably well-put--commentary on the insidious integration of art into popular and corporate culture. (Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave., to July 2.)