Amy Bessone at Gavlak Gallery

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Amy Bessone, “Christmas Day Divorcée Flower 12.25.15,” 2015
Oil on canvas; 48 x 36 inches (121.9 x 91.4 cm)
© Amy Bessone / Courtesy GAVLAK

Until now, LA-based artist Amy Bessone has made her mark as a painter with a loose touch but firm ideas about history and culture. In her current show at Gavlak Gallery in Hollywood, the ideas are firmer. In addition to some enticing and suggestive paintings of flowers, she has added ceramic and bronze sculptures in the shapes of women's torsos mounted on wooden plinths. On the walls hang photographs taken from old press clippings concerning some independent-minded divorcees from between the 1930's and the 1970's. Her new limited edition book, The League of Divorced Women, includes a larger number of these black and white pictures along with short typed descriptions of the reasons for the split. The book is simultaneously hilarious and tragic, underscoring the stigma then attached to the act of divorce.

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Amy Bessone, “Wanted Unwanted,” 2015
Ink, acrylic and archival pigment print, paper on aluminum; 16 x 12 inches (40.6 x 30.5 cm)
© Amy Bessone / Courtesy GAVLAK

Framed in the gallery, the photographs, named after specific now unknown women, could double as the wanted posters that used to be seen in the post office. One is printed by Bessone with red lipstick marks and the words "wanted, unwanted."

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Amy Bessone, “MLB1.3,” 2015
Ceramic; 28.5 x 19.5 x 18.5 inches (72.4 x 49.5 x 47 cm)
© Amy Bessone / Courtesy GAVLAK

Each female torso, the subject of centuries of art made by men, refers to classical sculpture as well as its reinterpretation by the surrealists, specifically Magritte or De Chirico. One torso made of white glazed ceramic is draped with pearls yet broken so that the breasts and other fragments are contained with it. Another white ceramic torso is seemingly spoiled by a smattering of fingerprint smudges in black, evidence of being handled.

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Amy Bessone, “Number 8: Joan,” 2015
Archival pigment print; 41.5 x 33.5 inches (105.4 x 85.1 cm)
© Amy Bessone / Courtesy GAVLAK

Meanwhile, the floor is littered with giant pipe-shaped sculptures made of ceramic, the bowls for tobacco attached to long, phallic stems, both erect and flaccid. Recalling Magritte's 1929 painting, The Treachery of Images, in which a pipe is captioned with the scrawled French declaration that it is not a pipe, Bessone asks viewers to consider the cultural assumptions behind any work of art.

It all might be a little heavy-handed in terms of overt and now well-understood feminist messaging but for the execution of the objects and the paintings. They are made with an aplomb that buoys the impact of the show. It is on view through February 20.

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Bovey Lee, “The Gymnast,” 2015
Cut paper, Chinese xuan (rice) paper on silk; 16 x 43.5 inches (40.6 x 110.5 cm)
© Bovey Lee / Courtesy GAVLAK

In the rear gallery, Bovey Lee shows a series of intricate designs cut in miniscule detail from white rice paper. Born in Hong Kong and now living in LA, she learned the art of complex paper-cutting by returning to China to study it. Already accomplished as a calligrapher, she made the transition and renders a cut paper roller coaster in way that captures the topsy-turvy experience of riding in it. In fact, the name of her show, Divertical, is taken from the name of the world's tallest roller coaster in Italy but it describes the effect of all her work. It is on view through March 5.

And if you somehow missed the news, this weekend is art fair overkill. Head to Barker Hanger to see Art Los Angeles Contemporary, or downtown to the convention center see the LA Art Show. Each venue offers many talks, performances and events while commercial galleries and museums throughout the city have pumped up their offerings for out of town visitors. See you there!