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The Night's Familiar but Uneasy Mysteries

David Deany's idiosyncratic installation evokes darkness, and is unpretentious and alluring.

January 31, 2002|HOLLY MYERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's something inexplicably entrancing about "Take Back the Night," David Deany's gallery-subsuming installation at Diannepruess Gallery. Though composed of only a few idiosyncratic individual elements, it evokes a sense of humble mystery akin to that of one's childhood backyard at night: a familiar place made unfamiliar by a veil of darkness. It feels cozy but uncanny, safe but uneasy.

The unifying element in the installation is a synthetic tone of midnight blue. The gallery's windows are covered with blue spray paint, and blue light seeps through the planks of a rough, splintery wood floor that is built about a foot above the gallery's cement floor. Two large paintings--one that conveys a horizontal wave pattern meant to suggest running water, another that depicts a large, silhouetted tree--stew in similar shades.

A large, steaming tub of fresh tar and a kitschy but daunting painting of an owl pose an earthy contrast to the cold atmosphere of blue. A spattering of small, beige, unevenly ovular forms are set into the wall above the owl and are lighted from within like an otherworldly hybrid of stone and star.

This dichotomy between blue and beige, sky and earth is loose and perhaps even unconscious. But it anchors the space into a rich, organic state of tension. No single element of the installation seems calculated or particularly potent in itself--indeed, they're all disarmingly amateurish--but their casual cooperation spins this tension into an alluring web.

It is a refreshingly sloppy, intelligently ambiguous and wonderfully unpretentious project, all in all. One is tempted to pitch a tent alongside its lava-like pool just to see what spirits might emerge at the stroke of midnight.

*

Diannepruess Gallery, 945 Chung King Road, Chinatown, (213) 687-8226, through Feb. 9. Closed Sunday through Tuesday.

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