Ricky Allman's painting "This is a Lighthouse," acrylic… (Marine Contemporary )
Ricky Allman’s paintings at Marine Contemporary look like mash-ups of many things we’ve seen before. Blending abstraction with modernist architectural drawing and references to landscape traditions, they possess the swooping, maelstrom-like qualities of a Julie Mehretu painting, the quirky textures of a collage by Leslie Shows, and the surreal angularity of a De Chirico. Fortunately, they are also absorbing fantasies in their own right, visions of civilization run amok that are both horrifying and ecstatic.
In the larger works, accretions of modernist boxes grow like mutant crystals, beams of multi-colored scaffolding shoot across the sky, and networks of columns jostle for space with craggy mountain ranges. A selection of small, square canvases feel like close-ups from these larger works: little geometric koans, corralling goopy streams of paint into hard-edged facets.
The tension between the ebb and flow of nature and the ordering impulses of civilization is palpable, but not entirely stark. In fact, in Allman’s universe, mountain peaks might be sorted and shelved into any number of cubbies, but rectangles propagate like rabbits. Whether these scenarios represent human society annihilating nature or learning to operate by its rules depends upon your point of view. It’s probably a little bit of both, but what’s most striking is an underlying, anarchic sense of growth.
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Marine Contemporary, 1733-A Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 399-0294, through Aug. 11. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.marinecontemporary.com