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OrangeVolVI-LarryPitman.jpg
Lari Pittman, "Spread from A History of Human Nature Vol. VI," 2017
Cel vinyl and spray paint on gessoed paper, 10 pages
4 x 27 1/8 x 24 3/4 inches (10.2 x 68.9 x 62.9 cm) closed
© Lari Pittman
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Lari Pittman has a lengthy history of looking to ideas and motifs that have faded from popularity. The LA-based artist is credited with being one of the painters to resuscitate enthusiasm for a decorative language without losing serious, even sobering, content. Vivid colors and baroque compositions define his style.

PurpleVolI-LarryPitman.jpg
Lari Pittman, "Spread from A History of Human Nature Vol. I," 2017
Cel vinyl and spray paint on gessoed paper, 12 pages
4 5/8 x 27 1/4 x 24 1/2 inches (11.7 x 69.2 x 62.2 cm) closed
© Lari Pittman
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

In his latest exhibition at Regen Projects in Hollywood, Pittman looks to the endangered medium of books in Subject, Predicate, Object. Entering the gallery, an angled white table of architectural proportions, designed by architect Michael Maltzan, supports ten books, each lavishly bound in leaf green, ruby red, charcoal gray and other inviting colors. Collectively called "A History of Human Nature," each volume has 10 or 12 paintings. In the show, each book is open to one intricately executed work on paper by Pittman on the right hand page and a title on the left.

YellowVolIV-LariPittman.jpg
Lari Pittman, "Spread from A History of Human Nature Vol. IV," 2017
Cel vinyl and spray paint on gessoed paper, 10 pages
4 1/16 x 27 1/8 x 24 7/8 inches (10.3 x 68.9 x 63.2 cm) closed
© Lari Pittman
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

The green book begins with The Nature of Reverie. The complex composition shows what might be a small plump dog wearing a little pink hat or perhaps it is a statue or simply a fantasy? Resting on a pedestal, it is surrounded by loosely articulated gourds, feathers, leaves, candlesticks, delicate arabesques and mottled patterns of black and white dots. Layered and complex, the pictures are not narrative but each characterizes what the artist describes as a particular condition: melodrama, hallucination, hysteria, enervation, onanism, neurasthenia, melancholia, trauma or panic. Each is accompanied by its own painting and each book contains similarly complex musings.

Install1-FredrikNilsen.jpg
Installation view of "Lari Pittman / Silke Otto-Knapp Subject, Predicate, Object"
Photo by Fredrik Nilsen
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

They are illuminated manuscripts for a contemporary era, looking back to the painstaking devotional paintings done by monks, often over the course of a lifetime, as well as the illustrated books attempting to explain the "humors," the mental, physical and spiritual conditions repeatedly explored by artists in western cultural history. Time is inherent. The books take time to view and they refer to the flow of time if not progress.

SilkeOtto-Knapp-RegenProjects.jpg
Silke Otto-Knapp, "Scenery with frontispiece," 2017
Watercolor on canvas, 5 panels; 70 7/8 x 255 15/16 x 1 inches (180 x 650.1 x 2.5 cm)
© Silke Otto-Knapp
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

The books are presented flat, as a large horizontal presence, while the walls of the gallery are hung with black, white and gray watercolors on canvas by German-born Silke Otto-Knapp, who has a studio adjacent to that of Pittman. Both are on the faculty of UCLA. The artists themselves conceived this joint exhibition, not an obvious pairing, but the very oddity of the juxtaposition is successful. Otto-Knapp’s simplified forms of geometric or figurative shapes on dark backgrounds are so utterly different from those of Pittman, they do not compete. Instead, they are soothing after attention to the minutia of the books, like moonglow after sunlight.

Install2-FredrikNilsen.jpg
Installation view of "Lari Pittman / Silke Otto-Knapp Subject, Predicate, Object"
Photo by Fredrik Nilsen
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

If you find it frustrating to see only a single painting in a book, Pittman himself will be at the gallery from 2-3pm every Saturday to turn the pages and talk about his process. Otherwise, you can see the pictures on an iPad in the gallery. This is the same solution that was used when Pittman showed similar pieces, Mood Books, also on stands designed by Maltzan, at the Huntington Art Gallery last fall. The show is on view to May 27.

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