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"RETURN TO LIGHT AND SPACE"

by Suvan Geer

(RTKL International Ltd., Downtown) In the late sixty's L.A. art was known for a certain "look." An anti-object, perceptual gamesmanship, often marked by a cool, impersonal style and exacting finish that seemed to spring as much from the innovative plastics of our space-race industries as it did from the irreverence of the surrounding cultures of fun in the sun surfboards and freeway cruising. Approachable as Pop, the almost immaterial objects and paintings of L.A.'s Light and Space era revamped theory heavy Minimalism, made pals with physics and metaphysics, and came to be something more about purely looking than grand thoughts.

Thirty years later looking is still an entertaining and almost objectless experience in the new work of Venice artist Angie Bray. Her dramatically long, rotating vertical shafts of thin, colored metal gently spin and bounce, or rub and parry walls, and each other, like elegant lines with wandering ways. Rooted to the ground by their small motors, they reach out to scribe space like blind antenna caught in a gentle vortex and feel around for a way out. Located in the gallery window, they parody and animate the metal architectural details zipping across the building's walls, adding a note of friendly and more humanly-scaled interference to the structure's mass and theatrical darkness.

It is the lightweight quality of Bray's materials and the David-and-Goliath way they tickle the pompous heft of modern architecture which makes them appealing. Refined and delicate they manage to exude a certain calm certainty of material opposition as they lightly finger walls or leave gentle rubbed traces over time. Weeds cracking asphalt have that kind of slow, assertive assurance.

Peter Alexander, one of the founders of the L.A. "look," shows images continuing the exploration of the kind of innovative technology which marked the light and space movement. These are Iris computer prints made on his trademark light absorbing black velvet. The seductive illumination of these fragile images quickly pales however, as it bounces off female body parts then loses its touchable thrall in the cool emptiness of a gaze reduced to peep show dimensions.

Jennifer Steinkamp's computer generated videos are ordinarily more involving as they splash across architecture in a body absorbing display of dancing color and moving two-dimensional form. But for this exhibition the rolling, coiling computer graphics of Duct are compressed onto a flat panel that seems to float in space. While the shapes of Steinkamp's graphics are obviously keyed to the dynamic architectural area of the building's entrance their projection against the deep space of an innocuous office area suggests an intellectual romancing of space and form missing in real time and space.

The prism light shows of Peter Erskine frequently offer something of that same kind of romance paired with a dose of ecological warning. Unfortunately here his playful light effects are confined to video documentation. The fragile, insider experience of moving through color and light never gets beyond the "saw it on T.V." sense of storytelling.

More gratifying are the Ciba-chrome prints of John Hesketh's mysterious time lapse journeys through pictorial space and the smooth, color saturation of Marie Rafalko's acrylics on canvas. While they don't dematerialize their objects their dense color is still exacting and approachable.

 



Jennifer Steinkamp, "Duct",
video projection installation, RTKL Associates, Inc., 1997.

 



John Hesketh,
"Untitled: Palms Series",
toned gelatin silver print, 1996.






Peter Alexander,
"Morning Becomes Electra",
toned Gelatin silver print, 1996.