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Art review: Martin Durazo at Luis De Jesus Gallery

January 17, 2013|By Christopher Knight, Times art critic
  • Martin Durazo, "Slayer," 2012
Martin Durazo, "Slayer," 2012 (Luis de Jesus Gallery )

Seven new paintings by Martin Durazo at Luis de Jesus Gallery elaborate on his slightly earlier graffiti-inspired work, while the pleasure-palace installation in the back room removes pretty much any doubt about the paintings’ intentions. The large, abstract canvases are covered with big, brushy strokes and gritty squeegee-scrapings of paint, but they aren’t engaged in a drama of existential doubt that might follow a trajectory from Willem De Kooning in the 1950s to Gerhard Richter now.

Instead, Durazo’s robust abstractions function as a kind of mise-en-scène for social interaction. Their Modernist palette of red-yellow-blue primaries is tipped into a range somewhere between psychedelic acid hues and mass-media printer’s ink, all hot pink/magenta or electric blue, with planes of silver, black and white for drama. Unpainted areas provide a “raw” counterpoint to the colorfully “cooked.”

The largest work is a 12-foot-wide diptych with the thrash-metal band title, “Slayer.” Imposing in scale, it’s like De Kooning’s “Door to the River” opening onto a festival arena-stage rather than a wild natural landscape.

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The installation in the rear gallery is inside a room constructed as a big black cube — about as Minimalist a form as can be imagined, but one undone here by the thumping beat of music emanating from within. Pull aside the black vinyl curtain and the chamber’s darkened interior is set up something like a private club. There are flashing light projections, party paraphernalia scattered across an altar-like table, a mirror ball, a black leather couch for lounging and — not incidentally — an abstract painting glowing in the ambient black-light.

Durazo’s upfront work performs a savvy twist on the social context deeply embedded but often invisible in works of art. Careful historical considerations guide its casual-seeming style.

Luis De Jesus Gallery, 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, (310) 838-6000, through Feb. 9. Closed Sundays. and Mondays. www.luisdejesus.com

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