Nikolas Gambaroff's first L.A. show, at Overduin and Kite, glimmers with consequence in places, its tactile verve serving some mildly clever wordplay. Overall, though, the German-born, New York-based artist makes too many facile choices for his work to resonate with any consistent depth.
Gambaroff engages with both the language of public discourse -- newspapers, ads -- and the architectural language of display, the once-sanctified white cube of the gallery space. He disrupts and violates them both, but to no particularly dramatic, revelatory or inventive end.
For his painted collages, he tears and layers newspaper pages into patterns of zigzagging rows or concentric rings. The content is still evident but fragmented, and the collision of ads and news is no more jarring than in any paper's daily spread -- in fact, it feels less so for having been made more formally dynamic, more decoratively raw-edged. Gambaroff's stew of pungent influences, from Robert Heinecken through cynical Pop to Mark Bradford, ends up surprisingly dilute.
An installation in the second gallery recycles part of the last show there, by Ei Arakawa, with whom Gambaroff has previously collaborated. Bold white letters against a blue wall read "UNITED," and face a freestanding wall spelling the anagram "UNEDIT." Both walls are hung with painted collages, this time incorporating color photographs of urban skylines and supermarket posters, and the "UNITED" wall is punctured at intervals with rectangular cutouts exposing the room's infrastructure.
Gambaroff invokes all sorts of rhetorical slippage here, but the disjunctions remain frustratingly superficial.
Overduin and Kite, 6693 Sunset Blvd., (323) 464-3600, through Dec. 22. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.overduinandkite.com