"Longrondo," 2012, acrylic on panel, 24 x 60 inches. (From the artist and Lora…)
Viewed from a distance, Richard Bruland’s paintings at Lora Schlesinger Gallery appear to be simple gradations of muted color, reminiscent of sky tones at dawn and dusk. At close range, however, they are anything but simple.
Take a step or two in and their seemingly coherent hues dissolve into a chaotic mélange of multi-colored dots. Take another step and these dots reveal themselves to be three-dimensional: not points at all but layers that have been unevenly applied, then painstakingly sanded down to reveal dipping and shifting strata of color.
What might have passed as just a clever visual trick — the translation of basic televisual optics onto the surface of a canvas — deepens with a recognition of the process into a feat of considerable energetic complexity.
Bruland strikes an improbable balance between the soft, atmospheric hues at the surface and the brasher colors underneath, between tonal gradation and splintered dispersion, between the smooth, sanded surface and the uneven geologic layering it reveals. The act of sanding, moreover, lends each piece a tender air of meditative resonance.
These are paintings that have been worked at, pored over, tended to at visibly strenuous length. Each feels, to some degree, like an act of devotion.
Lora Schlesinger Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave. T3, Santa Monica, (310) 828-1133, through Dec. 29. Closed Sunday and Monday. loraschlesinger.com
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