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Roberta Smith mentioned in last Sunday's New York Times that dealers and collectors should stop chasing the same artists and that the notion of bigger as better be should questioned. Two current shows in L.A. fill that bill.

 

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Roy Dowell, "Untitled #1029," 2013
Acrylic on linen; 52 x 40 inches
Photo by Michael Underwood. Image courtesy of Various Small Fires

 

Roy Dowell now shows at a small gallery in Venice called Various Small Fires. (The name pays homage to the eponymous photo book by Ed Ruscha.) Simply delightful sculptures, paintings and works on paper are happily in dialogue with one another and with the larger history of modern and ethnographic art. Dowell is well-known for his finesse in collage. For decades, he has composed complex abstractions by tearing apart old posters, wallpapers, and so forth with an astonishing range and dexterity. Then, last year, he created a few sculptures for the Hammer Biennial and a door opened for him. His new sculptures evidence his considerable knowledge of ethnographic art without direct quotation.

 

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Roy Dowell, "Untitled #1021," 2012
Cardboard, paper, and acrylic paint; 27 x 40 x 14 inches
Photo by Michael Underwood. Image courtesy of Various Small Fires

 

One sculpture, made of cardboard, is simply an open oval of white, red and black sitting atop a base of bright green. The circular opening of the sculpture is echoed in the yellow circle containing a white star resting in the center of the adjacent painting where thin black lines delineate a boxy shape resting, like a chair, on five legs. Other works operate in the realm between two and three dimensions including a small red mask with a pair of white circles as eyes. The bold color, attention to tiny details and inventive shapes of the larger works belie the fact that Dowell has not made a painting in decades. Perhaps the move away from the painstaking process of collage offered creative freedom. The show continues through October 19. For more information, go to vsf.la.

 

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Ivan Morley, "A True Tale," 2013
Oil, wax, personal lubricant, petroleum jelly on aluminum panel
70 x 34 inches (177.8 x 86.4 cm)
Photo by Jesse Fiorino. Courtesy of Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles


 

At the two locations of Richard Telles Fine Art in West Hollywood, works by Ivan Morley similarly make the case for a highly individualistic approach to painting. Using oil paint with a subdued palette and delicate touch, Morley builds complex abstractions with elements of text by initially painting on glass, then peeling off fragments and attaching them to canvas. The completed work appears stitched together but all of a piece. But Morley also paints cartoonish scenes of giant snails or real estate ads and, in some cases, the sensibility of the animator and the artist come together in abstractions with the goofy shapes and lines of late Philip Guston.

 

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Ivan Morley, "A True Tale," 2013
Oil, wax, personal lubricant, petroleum jelly on aluminum panel
72 x 30 inches (182.9 x 76.2 cm)
Photo by Marten Elder. Courtesy of Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles

 

And then there are the panels of glass entirely covered in tiny painted flowers. Morley’s anecdotes about the origins of the paintings add odd, tangential background. Like Dowell, Morley works on a domestic, even intimate scale. Not bigger, just better and very welcome. The show continues through October 12. For more information, go to tellesfineart.com.


Banner image: Roy Dowell, Untitled #1022, 2013; Cardboard, paper, and acrylic paint; 8 x 18 x 3 inches; Photo by Michael Underwood. Image courtesy of Various Small Fires

Various Small Fires and Milk

Ruscha Ed (Edward)

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