Ace Gallery is housed on the second floor of the old Desmond Building on Wilshire Boulevard, a few blocks east of LACMA, and has galleries that would be the envy of many a small museum. Proprietor Douglas Chrismas is known for leaving up his exhibitions for months on end, much longer than most commercial galleries. This is the last week, however, of an impressive 30-year survey of painting and sculpture by Charles Fine. It closes July 10 so if you have been putting it off, as I had, hustle to see a remarkably consistent and compelling body of work by a single artist.
Fine, an LA native who studied art at Otis and UCLA, is actually a student of the natural world and the laws that govern it and us. His earliest abstract paintings reference botanical forms veiled or supported by miasmic layers of organic shades of cream, ivory, tan and gold.
Also evident in this survey are the ways in which Fine was concerned very early with the surface textures of the paintings. Indeed, his work was included in exhibitions dedicated to the concept of Physical Abstraction.
Some pieces were bowed away from the wall in the shape of a cylinder or a wave. This brings about another realization. Fine has, for decades, been pursuing sculpture and painting simultaneously and he has equal command of the two and three dimensional processes.
Bronze sculpture made its appearance in his work in the early 1990s, around the same time that his paintings gained shape and depth. His recent Furnace Flowers (2012) could have been plucked from the ruins of Pompei. They appear archaic and immediate at the same time. Seeing the sculpture in this show lends a more profound meaning to the organic elements in the painting. Further insight into Fine’s working process can be found in what he titles “Tables of Contents,” large glass vitrines filled with shells, stones, tools, items from the earth and sea, from sites of labor and leisure, some altered by the artist, some left in their original states. It is clear a single sensibility collected and presented them, a sensibility that is reflected in every painting and sculpture produced over three decades. This sort of constancy entwined with curiosity must be an art form unto itself.
Fine has traveled extensively to collect the visual inspiration for his work, especially in Mexico, where he has his bronzes cast. That peripatetic urge, the history of wandering as it were, is contained in every piece produced by Fine. To see images or get more information, go to AceGallery.net.
Charles Fine, Table of Contents I, III, IV, II, Burn Cycle, & The Habits of Nature, Installation View. This and all images courtesy Ace Gallery, Los Angeles