Art Insider Dec 3: Alchemy of paint, serene lights, and fire and mass production

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This week, artists use light and pigment to create otherworldly effects, and two artists investigate the climate through unique personal styles. 

Harvey Quaytman 
Blum & Poe

Harvey Quaytman, Installation view, 2019. Blum & Poe, Los Angeles. © Harvey Quaytman Trust, Courtesy of the Trust and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo. Photo: Makenzie Goodman.

At Blum & Poe in Culver City, curved canvases fill the main gallery, each one lyrically balancing on a unique base. Harvey Quaytman (1937-2002) engineered these unconventional canvases (known as “rocker” paintings), steam bending the wooden frames to give each piece an inherent sense of movement. This movement is furthered by the paint that adheres to each canvas — it too feels bulbous and alive. For Quaytman, paint became a sculptural medium. He was always in search of new techniques and materials to apply paint to surface — sometimes dusting pure pigment, marble dust, or metal shavings onto thick plastic-based grounds. As the exhibition progresses through 30 years of the artist’s work, we see Quaytman becoming more minimal, embracing flat geometrics while still maintaining an investment to experimentation and vibrant color application. 

Detail of Harvey Quaytman painting. Credit: Lindsay Preston Zappas.

Harvey Quaytman was a type of alchemist. His studio was set up more like a workshop than a traditional artist’s studio. Alongside tinkerings with model airplanes, Quaytman would create paint experiments, laying down material to let it bubble, dry, and crack. His daughter R.H. Quaytman commented, “It seemed he always had a relationship with people who were involved in the production of art supplies.” He would befriend various paint and pigment suppliers, sourcing valuable chemical knowledge about their products. “It was like a salesman coming through with his wares,” R.H. explained. For some paintings, Quaytman would build up a wood frame around the canvas, and then flood the whole thing with Rhoplex (an industrial acrylic-based adhesive) before dusting pure pigment directly onto the wet material. The pigment would then sink partially into the material below, creating an unusual objecthood in which the color is uniquely embedded into the work. 

On view: November 9, 2019 – January 11, 2020


“10 Columns” by Phillip K. Smith III
Bridge Projects

Phillip K. Smith III, 10 Columns (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and Bridge Projects, Los Angeles. Photo: Lance Gerber. 

Walking into the darkened foyer of Bridge Projects, there’s a drastic shift from the busy streets of Sunset Boulevard. Inside, Phillip K. Smith III’s minimal light installation provides an almost chapel-like environment that demands a slow and patient attention span. Programmed on an hour-long loop, the LED-backed mirror sculptures slowly shift color, creating vibrant color fields throughout the stark gallery space. Some of these shifts are imperceptible, while others seem to happen in a blink of an eye, with the kelly-green panels suddenly bursting into vibrant red hues. While the format of this monumental work is similar to the familiar color manipulations of James Turrell, the installation provides moments of surprising color groupings and reflective effects that, almost like a meditation, offer an opportunity for the mind and body to slow down. 

On View: November 9, 2019 – January 11, 2020


Ochi Projects

MASZKIEWICZ WOOLSEY | ZAPPAS Y ‘M P L N T (Installation view).
Image courtesy of Ochi Projects. 

At Ochi Projects in Mid-City, Karolina Maszkiewicz’s sculptural Woolsey series begins with burnt wood pieces she salvaged from the recent Woolsey Fire in Malibu. Each piece then undergoes sanding and staining before becoming incorporated into idiosyncratic mobiles that seem to echo a fire’s lyric movements. 

Paired with these in this two-person show are John Zappas’ Y ‘M P L N T works, a series of oil stick drawings on table tops and panels that were sourced from Ikea’s “As-Is” section. Zappas’ mark making is dynamically abstract, evoking nature in-as-much as a frenetic energy felt by the body. The edges of the faux marble or pine panels are sanded down to reveal the cheap particle board within, calling attention to the prevalence of fast and cheap materials. Together, both artists’ active linework amidst themes of fire and mass production point to humanity’s resilience amidst exterior forces, whether natural or manufactured. 

On View: November 15–December 21, 2019