|CONTINUING AND RECOMMENDED, JULY/AUGUST 2012|
Jan Dibbets, "A Trace in the Wood in the Form of an Angle of 30º - Crossing the Path," 1969, gelatin silver print, 64 15/16 x 44 1/2".
Not since 1986, when Chris Burden’s “Exposing the Foundation of the Museum” literally tunneled under the concrete floor of the exhibition space of what was then known as the Temporary Contemporary, has dirt been such a focus of attention. "Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974" becomes part of a cañon of conceptually savvy and historically rich exhibitions that includes "Out of Actions" and "Reconsidering the Object of Art 1965-1975." The exhibition is thorough and intriguing. Its young curators: Phillip Kaiser and Miwon Kwon have done their research on the 80 artists who've been included. Those most associated with the rise of "Land Art" in the 1960s – like Robert Smithson, Richard Long, Dennis Oppenheim, Jan Dibbets and Mary Miss – are present, but the curators also crossed the globe to include many others who have created land art and interventions outside the United States.
As in any show whose date ends in 1974, but especially for work based on an outdoor scale, much of the work shown must be via video documentation or has been recreated. Nonetheless the relationship between now and then is strong, as reconstructions of Alice Aycock’s “Clay #2,” Richard Long’s “A Line the Same Length as a Straight Walk from the Bottom to the Top of Silbury Hill,” and Robert Morris’ “Earthwork aka Untitled (Dirt)” attest. Collective post-war Japanese Group “I”, Italian Arte Provera and German Zero members’ works confront projects such as Israeli artist Micha Ullman’s 1972 swap of earth dug from opposite sides of the Israeli/Palestinian border.
Issues such as political and social boundaries and exploitation of the environment, brought into the aesthetic discourse when artists like Helen and Newton Harrison broke away from the exclusive use of traditional sites and materials for art, remain relevant globally today, indeed more so than ever. While recreations can be disappointing, as they are often presented out of context, they are frequently the only way to view pieces that were site specific or left in the landscape, particularly when gargantuan in scale. Dated is one thing these are not. The works have generally withstood the test of time and appear fresh and relevant (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).
Diane Calder / Jody Zellen
Damien Hirst, "Dixit Insipiens," 2009, silkscreen print with glaze, 29 1/8 x 28 1/8".
Those huge, hyped canvases in a recent series of Damien Hirst transglobal shows, chocked with created value and an even greater degree of predictability, tended to give us the Hirst we love to hate and maybe that we deserve. When we see only massive, single-themed works that insist on unquestioned appreciation lest we be termed art philistines, the baggage of it all has a way of draining our energy and compassion for work that can actually be quite funny and smart. This smaller show of more varied, less pretentious works on paper is somehow also more interesting, in that it lets the scope, wit and humor of Hirst come out. Yes, there is a selection of dots on view, but there are other works in dialogue with them that render what this fellow is up to a bit more transparent, enjoyable, believable. Here we also see these juicy, weird color explosions that remind one of the splashes made by Gutai painting machines. These effectively tell one that however many trips to the bank Hirst and Gagosian make, however many underpaid assistants execute work bearing his signature, this is an artist who remains seriously vested in grappling with culture, in understanding color, edge, space, process.
This show of a cross section of his output gives us the better side of Damien Hirst. Another recent transglobal affair presented the Hirst we love to hate and maybe that we deserve. Multiple galleries were filled with lots of what Marx would have called symbolic (which is to say created) value, and an even greater degree of predictability. We were asked to take his dots (variously explained to us as optical, conceptual, Minimal, ironical, etc.) at their flat footed value lest we be termed art philistines. The baggage of it all has a way of draining our energy and compassion for work that can actually be quite funny and smart. In this selection of works on paper there is a selection of dots, but there are other works in dialogue with them that render what this fellow is up to a bit more transparent, enjoyable, believable. Here we also see these juicy, weird color explosions that remind one of the splashes made by Gutai painting machines. These effectively tell one that however many trips to the bank Hirst and Gagosian make, however many underpaid assistants execute work bearing his signature, this is an artist who remains seriously vested in understanding color, edge, space, process.
Prints of precious butterflies are witty and multi-tiered. Other favorites are those that reference the latest, unbelievably elitist flap broiling between the foodies and tree huggers regarding a looming ban (oh dear, the pressing gravity of it all) on foie gras for its cruelty to animals. That we can engage in this as an issue, when in fact there are people dying of malnutrition, is as ironic as Hirst's pricey prints. As usual and quite cleverly, Hirst takes no discernable social position, but smartly uses the silly flap as fodder for invention that is part wry, part Warhol rehash. One of the works conflates a foie gras product label with the printed name of a drug used to fight hypertension, typically caused by fatty foods. The drug's side effects happen to include penile dysfunction. Hirst's no dummy as we see in this well executed and convoluted tracking of the trickle down impacts of privilege and excess: stuff ducks 'til they die so you can eat their livers, organs so rich they make you ill, then take a drug for that illness that cramps your sexual groove. Then, I guess, one goes out and buys an expensive Hirst to feel virile again? Ah, Damien, such a mind, such a wealthy brat (Ikon Ltd., Santa Monica).
Ann Lofquist, "View from Mulholland (Nocturne)," 2012, oil on canvas, 23 x 64 1/2".
Ann Lofquist moved to Southern California only recently, and there's a glorious quality of light in her coastal paintings that feels incredibly fresh, as if we're seeing these vistas for the first time along with her. The four large-format landscapes (over five feet wide) and smaller studies feature expanses along the Pacific Coast Highway by Pacific Palisades, views of Ventura towards the ocean, as well as early evening over the Los Angeles basin. We're aware of human habitation in the buildings and houses she includes in the foreground and middle ground - with mountains and the ocean in the hazy distance. These elements are well-integrated, fitted into the horizontality of the landscape.
“City Lights - Ventura” captures the bend in the bay, while “Ventura from Grant Park” looks more directly out to sea from the hillside of the city. Both are masterful in the way they capture the shift in color and luminosity in the sky and how white buildings are interspersed amongst clusters of streetlights and of dark green trees as night falls. “View from Muholland (Nocturne)” is a view of the Los Angeles basin see from Mulholland Drive, on one of those turn-offs designed for admiring the grid of lights and architecture that make up the city, especially in the evening when all seems magical. Lofquist has managed to capture that magic, which is all encompassed in a bluish tinge. Pinpoints and pools of light tell us the city is alive. To the near right is a contemporary house being constructed on the hillside. We see the floors, the beginnings of walls, and we can project ourselves into the stunning view this house will one day enjoy - the one depicted in Lofquist's painting (Skidmore Contemporary Art, Santa Monica).
Michael Beck, "She's Going Places," 2012, oil on canvas, 38 x 44".
Several things attract us to the woks of Michael Beck: First, no matter how much we know art is not equal to technique, we are still captivated when a liquid like colored pigment can be made to look like life. Second, there is here the seduction of sight, of displaying those things from the everyday and making them visually compelling. Finally, there is Beck’s sensitivity to complex ideas about identity, gender, memory, the not-so-simple objects of childhood that stealthily transmit states of being. From this you might gather, accurately, that Beck turns out astoundingly well executed images. There's the pink tricycle isolated n the most dramatic, expertly handled light. A boyhood two wheeler is “tricked out” with a big tire in front and a little one in back that apes those crazy chopped Harleys. You can smell the age of a hobby horse, the sort from the '30s made of faceted timber and wood wheels. A teeny blue antique iron sitting on a conspicuously pink shelf is called “Cinderella’s Dream.” Titled "Notes to Self," this show ruminates with some nostalgia on the way in which the things we see, use, use and do not notice make our memories and builds our selves. Sometimes these subtexts work against each other. Calling a pink bike “She’s Going Places,” or suggesting via a toy rocket in “Off. . .To My Future,” that gender destinies must include muscle pumping or housework gets too obvious. One wonders if these lovely works would leave needed room for speculation if they were left untitled (Lora Schlesinger Gallery, Santa Monica).
Zhu Jinshi, "Gravity to Balance Violence," 2007, oil on canvas, 157 1/2 x 114 1/8".
It’s the audacity of paint. Beijing-based Zhu Jinshi’s über-painterly abstractions can, on a smaller scale, call to mind numerous practitioners of the form — thick impasto gatherings with alternately bright or nuanced palettes – that they may very well look like paintings that you’ve seen before. But when Jinshi steps up the scale the work takes on a whole new strata of painting — as object, and perhaps even wall-sculpture, if you will. “Gravity to Balance Violence” is the apotheosis of this gesture, a 13 by 9 1/2 foot oil on canvas that feels large even in the substantial and lofty main gallery. The mountainous form, made up of blues and gray-blues piling over oranges and reds, is an intensely physical proposition, one that reads as painting and sculpture simultaneously, even hung on the wall. The show spans more than 20 years of work, but it’s “Gravity,” along with his most recent offering, the 4-panel, 21-foot-wide "The Third Time to Yellow Mountain," an episode in greens and unpainted canvas, that make the introduction to Jinshi’s work worthwhile.
Michael Wilkinson's paintings are presented under the title "No History." "No History" refers to a statement by Jon Savage: “History is made by those that say ‘No’ and Punk’s utopian heresies remain its gift to the world.” Images are culled from the May, 1968 riots in Paris and the bombed out city of Dresden, Germany during World War II. The appropriated images are incorporated into the works and often function as foot-notes or captions. While history directs the interpretation of the works, their formal design and complex structures is the initial draw. The "Dresden" series have etched mirrors so viewers implicate themselves as voyeurs. The found photos appear in various places and in different sizes within the work. Numerous works juxtapose pages from Paris Match with a cutting from "The Angry Brigade" by Gordon Carr. These are intertwined on a linen surface rolled with orange acrylic paint. Often a rectangle is removed for a black circle to be added. The canvases refer to things remembered and etched out of history (Blue & Poe, Culver City).
Michael Shaw / JZ
Phillip Toledano, "Yvette," 2012, photograph, 60 x 50".
“Allanah” stares out at the camera, her lips so artificially enhanced that she appears unable to smile. So she pouts with a come-hither look. What catches the eye, however, are her breasts, huge pendulums that jut so far out, they appear more like sculptural pieces than body parts. But these breasts are part of her body now, created by skilled plastic surgeons. Phillip Toledano, the photographic artist who shot the image as part of "A New Kind of Beauty" explains, “Is beauty informed by contemporary culture? By history? Or is it defined by the surgeon’s hand? When we re-make ourselves, are we revealing our true character, or are we stripping away our very identity?” At 60 x 50 inches, the larger than life "Allanah" — while also showing the lines of the face and body, the pores of the skin — is more grotesque than beautiful, at least in the classical sense. “Tiana,” wearing a light piece of cloth over her head, is photographed from the neck up, showing off her bee-stung lips and ski-jump nose. “Justin,” revealing his large, feminine lips, perfect nose and enormous pectorals possesses the dignity and stance of an ancient Greek sculpture. “Yvette” poses with a piece of cloth draped over her breasts and her lips so large that they diminish her other features. There are several more men and women in this series, all so pleased with their re-formed selves that they pose serenely for the camera, while seeming to convey that “Yes,” this is what beauty is today (Kopeikin Gallery, Culver City).
Chris Lipomi, "Chillin," 2010-2012, digital print, 11 x 8 1/2".
Though working separately, Chris Lipomi and Jason Sherry make a formidable pairing. Lipomi’s 16 framed, 8 1/2 by 11 works on paper are referred to as drawings, but they use found photos — often either fashion ads or hotel stationary — as their foundations, and therefore are quintessentially collage-like in an updated, 21st century take on the term. His painting passages on the reproductions, several with modernist sculpture-like forms, alternately either bring notes of seriousness or a whimsical humor to each image, depending on the source painted upon, particularly the fashion ads that are over-the-top to begin with. Sherry’s screen prints and collages are more of the classic, magazine cut-out variety, intriguingly grotesque mash-ups that display some very innovative and involved cuttings of faces and body parts; a little bit Fred Tomaselli-esque, but far more raw and devious. Sherry also offers two hanging sculptures, spherical concoctions constructed from used eyeglasses. In one, the stems point inward, and in the other they extend outward, becoming a cartoon explosion relative to its partner. Sherry includes photos of these glasses 'chandeliers' in different configurations in a cyanotype/collage given the title "Kirk Cameron presents Celestial Seasonings," which sheds some light, albeit cryptic, on Sherry's own whimsical-cum-irreverent thought process (Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Culver City).
Anna Betbeze, "Wormhole," 2012, acid dyes, watercolor on wool.
Anna Betbeze's acid-dyed, bleached and otherwise distressed wool rugs aggressively mine the boundaries of aesthetic palatability. At the minimum, her three wall tapestries, plus another mounted flat on a glass-topped support, dramatically interact with the high-ceilinged, pit-like space with greater harmony than I've seen here before. Dubbed "Wormholes," the pieces do indeed bear a smattering of small- to large holes from not only bleaching but also burning, and large patches of brown mixed with piss-yellow, alongside green and magenta stains evoke, in at least part of our brains, the morning after a party that drifted off the deep end. Once one is able to overcome such preliminary associations new aesthetic possibilities open up. And with "Tower," the largest piece of the group at about nine feet long and stretching from the wall partly onto the floor, there's a relatively restrained, though still somewhat garish, approach to color, you're left grappling more exclusively with the aggression, the violation factor of this new iteration of 'painting' (Francois Ghebaly Gallery, Culver City).
Jesse Alexander, "Grand Prix of Monaco Start, Monaco," 1966, archival pigment print.
With energy at a premium, car racing identified as a right-wing male sport, and the world spinning in a hand basket, cars going very fast in competition with each other ought to make us irritable. Jesse Alexander’s vintage images – mostly from the 1960s – capture that Steve McQueen vibe, and they are – sorry to say it – stunningly alluring. These are not cars per se that are racing here, but those carts that left the driver the more exposed to elements and forces with one false move. Via the wonders of Alexander’s eye and the magic of f stops, scenes are stop-framed in sexy black and white shots of moving machines that actually go so fast it is dizzying. In the 1955 “Virage de la Gare” (roughly translated: race course from the gate), the viewer is faced with a lateral and frontal band of carts shooting forward on as the city of Monaco rises behind. Another image freezes two contestants rounding a dangerous curve where palm trees cast this decorative, playful shadow. Some of the best shots are of the oh so cool, oh so elite spectators leaning against the guard rails, all looking away from us as heads reflexively track the smoke of carts that have just zoomed past. It is a guilty pleasure to imagine this world, but a pleasure nonetheless (Fahey/Klein Gallery, Miracle Mile).
Brian Sharp, who is concurrently included in "Made in L.A.," is a hard-edged abstract painter with a bit of a soft spot. Working in a geometric format that calls to mind John McLaughlin, Blinky Palermo, and potentially countless other geometric abstractionists, depending on your personal internal library, Sharp has managed to keep the form fresh, or perhaps even resuscitate it. Working in small-to-medium scale, Sharp treats his paintings as objects more than images. Underlayers of oil subtly bleed out of the edges of shapes, providing subtle, shadow-like auras and/or paint build-up at the canvases' edges. He fills in areas with enough thickness to be viscous, yet transparently enough to allow for visible skeletons of earlier shapes, whether they were intended to be part of the final image/object, or rather exist as residue of an idea that was covered up. Sharp tends to favor simple but sensual color combinations, such as blue and dark blue, yellow/orange and white, or, more graphically, green and black. All are carefully considered and entail a mastery that's not easily appreciated. The color combinations soften the geometries – which play with repetitive patterns that then get broken – and positive and negative space. Given that they are objects they, along with a certain amount of very gentle whimsy, embrace face-to-face, experiential viewing, and resist being properly seen in reproduction (ACME., Miracle Mile).
Gronk, "Three Prong Claw," 2012, mixed media installation.
In order to see the latest show by Gronk you must traverse to a basement gallery kindly labeled the Bunker. Walking down the steep steps, the natural light disappears and the simple track lighting instantly directs your attention to a large black menacing claw that is reaching out from the middle of the gallery floor. The white talons stretch backward as if this human sized hand were grabbing a victim. Instead another claw, slightly smaller, reaches downward from the ceiling mirroring the gesture.
“The Giant Claw” was a cheesy 1950s science fiction film about a dinosaur-like bird that was billed as being “bigger than a battleship” that wreaks havoc from “Broadway to Bombay.” Riddled with poor special effects, the film has become a major inspiration for the artist. Rather than belittle this kitsch, Gronk reveres the aesthetic and the story. The three-pronged claws that are centered in the room interact with the rest of the exhibit in a dynamic fashion. Several of Gronk's sensitive 2D works cling traditionally on the walls out of harm's way, but it’s the silhouetted plane that is suspended from the ceiling and the heeled shoe leaning against the wall that appear to be within the claws grasp as you circle the installation. The least likely of threats to put an end humanity, you can just hear the screech of the bird as it captures this plane and our security in mid-flight (Coagula Curatorial, Chinatown).
G. James Daichendt
Utagawa Hiroshige, "Noto Province, Waterfall Bay" from the "Famous Views of the (Sixty-odd) Provinces" series, 1856, color woodblock print.
As debris from the Tohoku tsunami washes up on our shores unannounced, celebrate a more welcome gift, the 3,020 cherry trees bestowed on our nation’s capitol 100 years ago in a diplomatic gesture designed by the mayor of Tokyo to promote friendship. Sixteen rarely exhibited, color woodblock prints from the museum’s permanent collection are assembled into an alluring exhibition entitled “Lessons of the Cherry Blossom.” Each print celebrates the significance of the exquisite, but short-lived flower, or the boisterous flower viewing parties (hanami) that spring up during the peak of its bloom. Buddhist principles acknowledging constant change underlie images such as Totoya Hokkei’s portrayal of a fashionable young woman wrapped in a kimono strewn with fragile, five petal cherry blossoms, symbolizing the temporary nature of beauty and life. Several works by Utagawa Hiroshige are especially enticing, including a stunning mid-nineteenth century composition from his renowned series, “Thirty-six views of Fuji,” in which the iconic snow-topped mountain is barely visible, asymmetrically framed by a knot in the gnarled trunk of an ancient cherry tree (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).
"Second Skins," 2012, installation view.
"Alighiero Boetti by Afghan Women" is made worthwhile through the context it provides - from 1971 until the artist's death in 1994, Italian artist Alighiero Boetti commissioned a series of wall hangings from Afghan embroiderers. A leading proponent of Arte Povera, Boetti created the designs and Afghan women would execute them, as we can see in documentation that's part of this show. They are unnamed, says the wall text, because during most of those years (after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979) they were in refugee camps in Pakistan that were off-limits to Westerners - although clearly Boetti wasn't interested in individual names in any case, for what was to prevent his asking for them?
The exhibition features 29 small- to large-scale wall hangings, all brightly colored and mesmerizing. They play off a certain sense of exoticism, falling into three basic types. The most popular, and I take this to mean in terms of sales to collectors, were maps in which the borders of nations were filled in with the colors and symbols from their flags, making wry commentary on the geopolitical order. In "Mappa" (1990), for example, the US is filled in with the stars-and-stripes while the Soviet Union is filled in with a yellow hammer-and-sickle on a red background - both are large masses which dominate the world; the oceans are in purple. Then there are those spelling out words in block characters, such as "Order and Disorder" or "Incontri e scontri" ("meetings and clashes"). The third and most complex type, called "tutto," includes just about everything. The latter are a jigsaw puzzle of people and things fitted into each other, everything from a woman runner or a man on motorcycle, to a watch, a cow, an airplane, and so on, in a manner so complex that each took years to complete.
The text suggests that Boetti respected the textile arts because his mother was a sometime embroiderer. He lived part time in Kabul in the 1970s. Examples of other Afghan embroidery - on jackets, cloths, and bags - are included, reflecting the intricacies of the craft in traditional Afghan culture. The photographs by Randi Malkin Steinberger and even the title of the exhibition give rightful credit to the women who physically made these beautiful works. However, the title also attempts to deflect charges of colonialism and sexism which percolate given the history of these work. In the photographs, all the workers seen are women, while those organizing the work are men, including Boetti's go-betweens for these projects.
"Second Skins: Painted Barkcloth From New Guinea and Central Africa” highlights a traditional practice in two far-flung cultures - the Mbuti of the Ituri rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Ömie of Mount Lamington in Papua New Guinea. Both are known for designs hand-painted on sheets of beaten tree bark. Generally, these beautiful and sometimes intricate designs are abstract or highly stylized, although they may refer to things in the environment, such as vines, spider webs and features of the landscape.
"Second Skins" is split into two parts, and the Ömie section identifies individual artisans, all women. The Mbuti works are older, and were sold to European and American collectors via traders, so no names are attached to them. The Ömie were organized into a cooperative in 2004, and the 21 Ömie represented here are known for their own patterns, which are handed down from generation to generation. Vivian Marumi, for example, specializes in a dense net of climbing vines with thorns. Mary Naumo has conflated land and sky in her "Snail Shells, Ömie Mountains and Stars" - a painting dominated by a series of circles on a square barkcloth which has a painted zigzag border. The Omie works are really the more striking, and not only because artist names are attached, it's because you can sense the visceral connection of land and place. While most images are non-narrative, Lila Warrimou, paramount chief of the Ömie Women, has created exceptions. In one she shows how the human origin story is intertwined with the barkcloth origin story. The first man and first woman stand atop Mount Obo, and trees from which she later made barkcloth grows from the mountainside (Fowler Museum at UCLA, West Los Angeles).
Score card for Mah Jongg, c. 1923.
Before pulling up a chair to play at one of the tables in the combination Mah Jongg game room and exhibition gallery, detour through the permanent collection to examine evidence of 7th century Jewish silk route traders’ ties with China. Marvel at the photograph of a Jewish/Chinese congregation assembled around a torah at a Kaifeng synagogue established in 1163. From there it’s not such a leap to acknowledge that Joseph Babcock, a Jewish Standard Oil representative who became infatuated with Mah Jongg while stationed in China, simplified the game and patented it’s name. He eventually sold his interest to Parker Brothers as Mah Jongg gained popularity in 1920’s Jewish American communities. Paintings, drawings and photos including George White’s “Scandals” showgirls dressed as game tiles line the walls of "Project Mah Jongg," accompanied by texts such as Maria Kalman’s memories of therapeutic conversations among pre-feminist communities of suburban housewives dedicated to playing Mah Jongg. Display cases containing hostess props, game tiles and box covers with caricatures of demure Chinese girls, wise elders, etc. encourage the examination of Ma Johgg’s flirtation with exotic mysticism coincidental to its introduction into suburban homes and synagogue fundraisers to vacation spots in Miami or the Catskills. Sound stations add another dimension to this thought provoking but appropriately playful homage to a game beloved by generations of Jewish women (Skirball Cultural Center, West Los Angeles).
Carla Gannis, "Queenie," 2012, digital pigment print.
In "Pop Noir," a two artist exhibition exploring the intersection of popular culture with deeper issues of desire, perversion, even pornography, Carla Gannis creates a series of modern day Jezebels. While segueing from close-ups to wide-angle settings, these highly collaged and Photoshopped images are vibrant, employing intense reds. They are reminiscent of thirties and forties “noir” films. “Queenie,” a curly-haired, bikini-clad, full-bosomed creature, sits in a childlike pose, legs spread apart, while staring at an array of transformer toys spread around her. The effect, combining seduction with repulsion, evokes the controversial 1956 film, “Baby Doll," which starred Carroll Baker. Gannis’s “Rear Window,” paying homage to the iconic Hitchcock film, features a panoramic view of an urban courtyard. A closer look reveals a femme fatale, held by two sinister looking men and dangling upside down from a window, her long blonde hair brushing the side of the building.
The photographs and multi-media work of Sandra Bermudez employ sensual body parts. But these images have more deliberate pop aspects, while also drawing on the artist’s background in fashion design. In a series of four works from "Lip Installation" the artist photographed her own deeply colored red lips, with each set slightly opened in a puckered or about-to-be-kissed pose. By cropping these tightly and in a circle, the artist is sending an ambiguous message, suggesting that the images are vaginas or anuses. Her "Wallpaper" series, “American Pastoral,” consists of original works and actual reproduced wallpaper. Created to look like 18th century French toile, they feature naked teenagers frolicking in the forest and are presumably inspired by Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue photos. The artist’s ornate ivy themed collage pieces, affixed to the wall, allude to the drug wars in Columbia (her native country), and attest to her penchant for controversy as well as versatility (The George Gallery, Orange County).
Manny LeGaspe, “The Dream She Tounched My Heart,” acrylic on wood, ca. 24 x 28”.
Manny LeGaspe titled his show “La Penny Games,” which is an anagram of his name and speaks directly to his penchant for avoiding interviews and refusing to jot down even the slightest artist statement: he wants us to look at his work, not him. Ironically, though he steeps himself in enigma and is determined to outrun any glimmer of spotlight, Le Gaspe’s paintings are awash in just the opposite vibe, revealing sentimental, earthy childhood memories, passions of the soul and a host of symbols and situations that do more to expose tenderness than hide it. The couplings in both "The Embrace" and "The Dream" are perfect examples, depicting a love that has moved far beyond physical desire to reside in that molten state where two beings meld together in ultimate connectivity, their firmly lined, intertwining limbs making one body begin where the other seems to end. In his triage of wrestler portraits, "Versus," "Discipline" and "Discipline II," LeGaspe again reveals a more complex, and unexpected human layer: gargantuan men who break bones and bust egos for a living and fanfare are presented in static, unassuming poses reminiscent of humbled schoolboys who'd rather be cuddled than crack skulls. The series of roosters remembered from his grandfather’s farm are magnetic and vibrant, almost clucking off the canvas, but it’s within "The Wish," a newer work, that we perhaps find the hidden LeGaspe breaking into flight: beneath a burgundy-streaked field at dusk a peasant farmer tilling his crops stops to meditate on the glowing stars above. He is an untroubled man, unafraid and reaching out for meaning and understanding – and there isn’t anything enigmatic about that (Metro Gallery, Pomona).