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March 27, 2008|PAUL YOUNG

I may not be old enough to know Gothic art firsthand, but I'm old enough to remember when goth kids came along and ruined it for everyone else.

Perhaps that's why I've become interested in some of the European paintings in L.A. galleries lately. Gert and Uwe Tobias of Transylvania gave us some dark, genuinely Gothic work last fall at Happy Lion. Then came a stunning exhibit at Marc Foxx by Belgian artist Cris Brodahl, who created oddly affecting black-and-white paintings that suggested some dark, elegiac memories.

More recently, Blum & Poe served up a somber set of grayish black paintings by Victor Man of Romania. And now we have a suite of haunted canvases by Belgian Stef Driesen at L.A.'s Marc Foxx (ends April 12; marcfoxx.com).

Driesen creates large-scale, romantic paintings that combine the sacred aspirations of the Old Masters with troubled, often erotic subject matter. He does that by synthesizing figuration and abstraction to the point where human or spectral beings seem to blend seamlessly with dark rock formations, or possibly flesh. (Think Francis Bacon crossed with Ansel Adams).

It's a heady mix to be sure, but is it indicative of how Europeans feel about the state of the world? "I can't speak for others," says Driesen, 41. "But personally, I do feel this heaviness."

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-- theguide@latimes.com

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