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Patterns emerge through meditation

March 19, 2004|Christopher Knight | Times Staff Writer

"Shift," the centerpiece of a show by Timothy Nolan, is an improbable cross between a Minimalist installation and a Buddhist sand painting. And why not? Both forms encourage meditation on aspects of the conflict between sensual experience and mute materiality, ephemera and permanence. Together, they also collapse East and West, ancient and contemporary.

At the Newspace Gallery, Nolan has laid out "Shift" in the main room. At first, it looks like stray linoleum. Using silvery gray powdered graphite and a mixture of baking soda and baking powder, he dusted the floor with a tight, alternating pattern of small gray and white diamond shapes. They create one large diamond, whose placement was determined by the architecture and spatial volume of the room.

Over the delicate powdery surface of the pattern, which could be blown away by a strong gust of wind or the ministrations of a well-placed broom, Nolan sprinkled flakes of glitter. They provide essential sparkle for the diamonds. The white and gray shapes create an illusion of cubes, like an optical conundrum by M.C. Escher.

As you move around the floor design, though, the illusion shifts. Three dimensions collapse into two, then pop back up. White zigzags are crossed by gray stripes. Stacked cubes flatten into strips folded in accordion pleats. The pleats suddenly switch directions. The fragility of this temporary work concentrates time. The fact that it won't last throws the experience of "now" into high relief. When that occurs, the "now" looms as a pattern of illusion -- one that's as seductive as the sparkly work.

The show also includes four paintings on translucent sheets of white acrylic and one diptych on two tall sheets of white Mylar. Using white and silver oil paint, Nolan makes dense thickets of little rectilinear shapes -- polygons, small squares and so on.

Usually, no clear pattern is discernible. An overall sense of harmony and balance does suggest that your mind might be struggling to impose a larger order. A lacy web of radiating straight lines in the diptych even manages to create a pattern of interlocking circles -- although a curved line is nowhere to be found.

Newspace Gallery, 5241 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, (323) 469-9353, through April 3. Closed Sundays and Mondays.


The many colors of white, explored

White is the color made from all colors in the spectrum, and as a symbol its global uses range from purity to death. For art, its most famous champion was Malevich, who said white on white expressed a peculiarly modern "feeling of fading away," of invisible forces like "wireless telegraphy" and "magnetic attraction." As the big Minimalism survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art shows, it has been steadily popular since the 1960s; Robert Ryman has built a career around applications of white pigment to flat surfaces affixed to the wall -- no two alike.

"White on White," a lovely group show of 21 paintings and sculptures by 22 artists at the Patricia Faure Gallery, likewise encompasses a wide range of variations on the theme. John M. Miller's classic "Portal II" is a tall rectangle of raw canvas with his trademark network of visually interlocking white bars, which here -- hung almost at floor level -- has the feeling of a magic doorway. Jason Eoff's "Bling Bling" goes in a whole different direction, sprinkling 30 star-bursts of rainbow-edged white across a field of cloudy white resin, in a Pop celebration of enlightenment.

Michael Roberts' beautiful untitled work mixes marble dust in acrylic paint -- pounds of it -- and lays the goop on several inches thick; light and shadow are physical, not an illusion, and the object resides somewhere between a painting and a wall relief. Andy Moses' "Illuminosity" brushes wide swaths of pearlescent white on a gently bowed plane, resulting in a fog of shifting light like a gray dawn at the seashore.

Most of the works are recent. Two that aren't are among the most impressive.

Maxwell Hendler's "Binder" (1989) is a 12-foot-wide strip of ordinary pegboard, fastidiously painted with white enamel. It provides a visual definition of a painting: literally, a hanging surface for paint.

Richard Allen Morris' wry and resonant "Snow Job" (1977) could be an emblem for the show. A 3-foot-square panel is brushed almost edge to edge with white paint, with white canvas showing through. Across the surface, the title words have been squeezed directly from the tube in a blunt script of more white paint. "Snow Job" makes fun of the popular claim about empty trickery in contemporary art while asserting a truth: The power of all art comes from its status as a white lie.

The show also includes fine examples by Tony DeLap, Jacob Hashimoto, Salomon Huerta and several others.

Patricia Faure Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 449-1479, through April 10. Closed Sundays and Mondays.


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