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An Eloquence in Yek's Vibrant Paintings

January 04, 2002|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For nearly five years, Yek has combined the razor-sharp graphics of space-age cartoons with the seemingly infinite expansiveness of atmospheric abstraction by using an airbrush to spray candy-colored coats of paint on concave panels of various dimensions. Resembling cybernetic sunsets, or neon-enhanced screen savers, his hyper-refined paintings have the presence of portals: trippy windows out of which whooshes all the air in the room. To stand before one is to feel an irresistible tug on your body, not to mention your imagination.

At Mark Moore Gallery, six dazzling new works by the Las Vegas painter (who dropped his last name to prevent his art from being read as a sign of his ethnic identity) make his earlier panels look old-fashioned, almost quaint in the way they play two dimensions against three. Picture the view through the curved windshield of the Starship Enterprise when Capt. Kirk commands, "Warp speed ahead," and you'll have an idea of the magnitude of the leap these paintings take as they propel viewers into illusionistic deep space.

They are a pleasure to see and a pain to describe. Like the art of Edward Ruscha, which invites sophisticated explanations while making them sound silly, Yek's abstract images leave words in the dust, struggling to catch up with each painting's silent eloquence.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday January 5, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
Painting title--A caption accompanying an art review in Friday's Calendar misidentified a work by the artist Yek. It is called "Sweet."

Most of the action takes place in the top third of his square panels, which measure between 3 and 5 feet on a side. For example, the bottom third of "Glitch" is an expanse of nothing but warm glowing gray. As your eye glides upward, it discerns five or six faint vertical bands in which tints of aqua, blue and lavender become increasingly evident. These tones intensify, becoming, in the top third, eye-popping expanses of ethereal colors whose subtle gradations and super-saturated tones make rainbows look dull by comparison.

To emphasize the crisp edges where these vertical bands meet, Yek has adorned most of them with swooping arcs and curved vectors in multihued magenta. Like a racing stripe with a mind of its own, this broken linear element dances in fits and starts across the painting, forming an indecipherable hieroglyph that makes visual, if not linguistic, sense.

The other five paintings orchestrate wildly diverse variations on this format, which recalls Roy Lichtenstein's Pop paintings of mirrors. Titled "Rough," "Sweet," "Clear," "Blink" and "Plush," they flaunt Yek's skills as a colorist. Playing fiery fluorescent oranges against soft pastel pinks and sizzling burgundies against melted-chocolate browns, he even makes black look bright and vibrant, abuzz with so much visual energy that you can't help but be drawn into it.

All of Yek's paintings employ Baroque theatrics to pull your eyes outward and upward. You don't read them from top to bottom or left to right as much as you scan them like split-screen monitors on which single stories are told from five or six perspectives simultaneously. If these heady works don't blow your mind, they'll expand it.

Mark Moore Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, (310) 453-3031, through Feb. 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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Field of Dreams: "Elysian Fields," Won Ju Lim's Los Angeles solo debut at Patrick Painter Gallery, makes a strong first impression. To step into the large darkened space is to feel as if you've entered a mysterious world where light and shadow dance around your capacity to distinguish illusion from reality.

The young L.A. artist has engineered this pleasantly disorienting effect by placing dozens of abstract forms in the floor's center and projecting nighttime images of an oil refinery on three walls. Ordinary desk lamps shine like miniature streetlights over the objects on the floor, casting long shadows and throwing errant reflections on all four walls.

Initially, the two- and three-dimensional components of Lim's installation play off one another nicely, blurring the border between objects and images by confounding distinctions between abstraction and representation. As you keep looking, however, the elaborately staged setup becomes too arbitrary and unresolved to sustain your interest in a satisfying way.

The elements on the floor are 3-D models of floor plans Lim copied from catalogs for do-it-yourself home builders. Stacked atop one another and laid out side by side, her plexiglass-and-foam core sculptures look less like a jampacked urban plan and more like a bargain bin filled with customized drawer dividers, homemade organizers designed to keep the silverware from getting messed up. Her video and slide projections are too generic to do much more than register a vague interest in things architectural and cinematic.

The best feature of Lim's exhibition is its dreaminess. Unfortunately, this quality is better realized in photographs of her installation than in the work itself. Bigger is not always better, and scaling back can sometimes be expansive.

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