Chris Finley, Benjamin Weissman and Cindy Bernard

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One of the many downsides to a market-driven contemporary art scene is the shortage of options for mid-career, middle-aged artists. Artists who had a burst of support when first out of art schools can fade from view for any number of personal reasons: teaching, raising a family, moving away from the big city, shifts in priorities and focus. Three shows in L.A. give such artists another chance and in every case, it proves a good gamble.

Chris Finley, "Drool, Snatch, Clean & Jerk #2," 2017
Sign enamel on canvas over panel; 39 × 39 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Chimento Contemporary
Photo by Ruben Diaz

Chris Finley came out of Art Center in 1993 with abundant critical and collector support, among the first wave of artists to think about his painting and sculpture as influenced by video games and internet culture. He moved back to his native Petaluma, pursued teaching and raised his own family. His current show at Chimento Contemporary in downtown LA is a return to form but not a re-tread. Titled Drool, Snatch, Clean and Jerk, the new paintings are based on the expressions of weightlifters as they attempt to perform movements that are officially termed "snatch" or "jerk." It is just like Finley to reach into a world of physical prowess and make it his own.

Chris Finley, "Drool, Snatch #2," 2017
Sign enamel on canvas over panel; 39 × 39 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Chimento Contemporary
Photo by Ruben Diaz

Finley has a talent for fractured figuration, tearing apart and re-presenting images in sophisticated colors and smooth surfaces made by using sign-painter's enamel on canvas covered panels. All the square-format paintings in this show are faces exploding or imploding with effort. Tufts of hair, teeth and eyes are all askew. Sly and smart, they prove that his own prowess has only improved with time. On view through July 22.

Benjamin Weissman, "Dignified," 2015
Charcoal on paper; 96 x 72 1/4 inches
Courtesy of the artist and The Box, LA

At The Box, also in downtown LA, Benjamin Weissman's drawings capture the black humor that has long characterized his parallel career as a writer. Though he studied visual art at CalArts at time when Mike Kelly and Jim Shaw were making waves, he has mostly pursued fiction and art criticism.

Benjamin Weissman, "Our Bond, Squared," 2017
Pastel on paper; 72 x 96 1/2 inches
Courtesy of the artist and The Box, Los Angeles

In this show, We Never Kissed, big, meaty renderings of female apes, often in a lusty congress with a man are as funny as they are disturbing. Based on a particularly erotic dream that Weissman redirected as a short story, the drawings occasionally include bits of his hand written text. The most elaborate drawing takes up an entire wall but can only be seen voyeuristically through a window of lavender Plexiglas. A ceiling painting above the viewer recreates the spectacle of the Sistine Chapel with the hand of God, or of Man, reaching to the hand of Ape as pink putti cavort against the sky. The show as a whole becomes a loose-knit fiction of the bespectacled narrator coming to terms with his voluptuous, hairy love interests willingly proffering their rounded bottoms. I can't recall a better exhibition dedicated to simian-homo sapiens passion. On view through July 8.

Cindy Bernard, "Panels 7, 14, 27 (Gladys Osmond, Beaches, Newfoundland, 2013)," 2017
Watercolor, graphite on Fabriano Artistico traditional white cotton paper
28 x 22 inches (71.1 x 55.9 cm)
Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art
Photo by Marten Elder

Another graduate of Cal Arts, Cindy Bernard gained much attention in 1988 for her photographs of patterns from the insides of security envelopes, a feature meant to prevent anyone from seeing inside. The arrangements of lines and checks, framed and presented in grids, were titled after the sender of each envelope: Merrill Lynch, the IRS, and so forth. Richard Telles Fine Art in Hollywood has a complete set on view. Of interest on their own, they also provide a background for seeing her 2016 watercolors of blocks of small flowers or stripes or solids all appropriated from the design of a crazy quilt that had belonged to a relative. She had never considered herself a painter and, like any quilt, the edges and colors are a little wonky but all the more charming for that. Seeing them in relation to the intellectual underpinnings of her earlier work lends context and content. The show is well-titled: Things Change, Things Stay the Same. It closes on Saturday, July 1.