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Scribes of Precision and Obsession

Art Reviews

In labors of love, the 13 artists at Angles Gallery come up with works that range from the minutely ordered to the meticulously violent.

January 11, 2002|LEAH OLLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

High concept has its place in the terrifically engaging "furor scribendi" show at Angles Gallery, but what dominates this selection of works on paper is simply a tremendous amount of nitty-gritty labor, some of it deliciously obsessive.

There is no capitalizing on accidents here, and little in the way of spontaneous gestures or random marks. All 13 artists--from California, New York and Europe--favor precision, whether in the form of carefully aligned, floating architectural planes (Kevin Appel), chromatically intense stripes (Linda Besemer) or, most memorably, meticulous scenes of quiet violence (Kelly McLane).

McLane's five striking images can be read independently or sequentially, the recurrence of key elements pressing the mind into narrative service. Drawn in soft, silvery middle grays, they use formal restraint to counter the extremity of the action depicted. On each page, a semi-natural disaster of some kind is playing out, a final reckoning between what the Earth has provided and what we've forced upon it. An avalanche of tires buries a car in one drawing; in another, a raging fire consumes the tires; and in another, tires and mobile homes are cast adrift in a tempestuous sea. Animals witness the destruction: A pair of deer watch mutely in one scene, a few rabbits peek out from inside tires in another. Curious and wonderful, McLane's drawings whisper of doom.

Lisa Yuskavage and Aaron Romine focus on immediate pleasures of the flesh in their contributions; Simone Adels and Kathy Prendergast map space through repetitive abstract marks. Ewan Gibbs and M.E. Carroll render architectural plans or facades through minute, orderly notations--grids of tiny circles in Gibbs' case and, in Carroll's, continuous lines of tiny, tiny text from "Alice in Wonderland" and the Greek drama "Lysistrata."

David Bunn applies a rigorous system, also to lyrical, poetic ends. His darkly humorous, multipart work weaves together notations on a medical anomaly, references to Freudian theory and classic catchphrases from horror literature. Bunn's brilliance lies in his manipulation of found material--junked library card catalogs--to spin complex commentary on the currency and obsolescence of objects and ideas alike.

Tom LaDuke set for himself the banal goal of using all of the ink in a four-color ballpoint pen, and the product of his conceptual exercise is the charming "Blossom," in which a single delicate, shimmering firework of a flower hovers within a densely inked page. Rebecca Bollinger draws sheets of diminutive images culled from Internet keyword searches. Amusing and strangely intimate, her drawings function as visual indices to everything from personal memory to furniture styles.

Julie Roberts' two interior dollhouse views prompt a double take that reveals them to be less illustrations of toys than tenderly considered studies in social anthropology.

Although many of the efforts here are diminutive in scale, all of the drawings have assured presence. Furor, or "inspired frenzy," is indeed the name of the game with these marvelously consuming commitments to paper.

Angles Gallery, 2230 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-5019, through Jan. 19. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Narratives of Loss: Either William Eggleston has been stepping up the pathos in his legendarily dispassionate work or the art world's traditional conventions of beauty have expanded so that his work no longer seems so aggressively cold and ugly.

Both, it seems, have occurred since the '70s, when the Museum of Modern Art presumptuously canonized Eggleston as the first color photographer of any importance. It wasn't just his use of color that challenged the existing canon but his fixation on the nondescript, the common and the banal.

The success of his work has given legions of artists permission to tread in his wake, shunning the picturesque in favor of the overlooked. In abundant company now, he no longer occupies a position on the aesthetic fringe; the center has come to him.

At the same time, as his recent photographs at Rose Gallery illustrate, Eggleston's vision has gradually softened. These Iris prints have none of the brashness and harsh intensity of his dye transfers, and the imagery feels more tender, more keyed to abandoned souls than simply overlooked places.

In one image, a plush gold upholstered chair turns its back to us, while a small suitcase beside it opens to reveal lavender satin pockets sagging like aged breasts, a sweater and some rusted cans and sand from the scrappy ground it sits on.

Many of the pictures here--all were shot during the last few years in California and Arizona--suggest a similar narrative of loss.

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