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Anne Truitt

1062 N Orange Grove
April 18–June 27

Anne Truitt, North, 1963, acrylic on wood, 60 3/8 x 96 1/4 x 12".

One could easily group Anne Truitt’s drawings and sculptures under the art-historical category of Minimalism. Some have done so. Indeed, the black-and-white works currently on view undoubtedly exhibit the clean geometry and monochrome surfaces endemic to the now familiar—mostly male—canon. Truitt’s three-dimensional works similarly confront the categories of architecture, painting, and sculpture with a malleability that became ubiquitous by the end of the 1960s. White: Four, 1962, for instance, conveys both the austerity of a tombstone and the domesticity of white wood siding in its slender, ridged form. Yet there are fundamental differences between Truitt and some of her better-known male contemporaries, whose objects came from steel and industry. Truitt's works were born of craft and carpentry, meticulously layered with paint. In North, 1963, the mostly black surface of a tripartite, monolithic block has also been treated with a tiered field of dark, shadowed green, a color that barely registers as more than a shift in light. The “black” trapezoidal drawing, 28 Dec ’62, upon closer inspection, reveals faint streaks of twilight purple that simulate iridescence. In both pieces, Truitt cultivates multiplicity with the most singular and rigid of hues, rendering black as a color in flux.

By accepting the rare form of perceptual intimacy that these works propose, the viewer is also directed to aesthetic flaws and inconsistencies,subtle blemishes that collect at the work’s peripheries: peeling paint, rough edges, and stained surfaces. Truitt anticipated these signs of aging. The artist wrote she choose wood so that her sculptures would "disintegrate in time at something comparable to the rate at which we human beings disintegrate.” If Truitt sought a kind of equivalence between form and experience, it might be found within these intervals or breaks, where there are moments of separation but also contingency.

Olivian Cha

Max Maslansky

2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
April 11–May 16

View of “Jouissance,” 2015.

After some youthful experimentation, Max Maslansky hit on the technique of painting blotchy pornographic figures, stain-thin on stretched bedsheets, punning on the aftermath of intercourse. In some cases, such as Gross Anatomy (Half-twin Bed) (all works 2015), this conceit seems to waver between titillation and satire. The scene depicts a pair of hands entering from the left to slide yellow panties off a pleasantly hot ass. The woman is similarly cropped at the midriff by the canvas; she mounts a stepladder in front of shelves of cartoonish “anatomical” specimens—a googly pair of eyes on a small stand ogling her inner thighs, and near her knee, a disembodied red nose.

This nose, in fact—an organ at once inflamed and clownish—has become a signal element of Maslansky’s porno pictures. Six Women (Half-double bed) depicts a row of seminudes in gauzy purple negligees, faced by garish, red-schnozzed monster heads—a gimmick that stands ready to negate the high seriousness of sex and/or painting. Otherwise, Maslansky’s spreads are Fauveishly charged by the tense composition of partners in the act—men, women, props (or just hands)—and moody, liquid palettes: retro blends of aquarium blue, bubble-gum pink, platinum blond, pleather red. This taut formal depth comes to the fore in Mummies (Twin-size bed), in which a reclining brunette seemingly yields to the harlequin lavender background of the bed linen itself, which hides two groping, pleasuring masked men. Maslansky’s figure-ground erotics are easy to enjoy, yet the anxiety remains that his sometimes flip style might only be a fling.

Travis Diehl

Ken Gonzales-Day

2685 South La Cienega Blvd.
April 4–May 9

Ken Gonzalez-Day, Run Up, 2015, HD film, eight minutes.

Of the 352 recorded lynchings in California since 1850, 132 of the victims were Latin American or Mexican and another 80 were African American, American Indian, or Chinese. Artist and author Ken Gonzales-Day’s groundbreaking revisionist history Lynching in the West (2006) argues persuasively and poetically that racist extrajudicial executions targeted more than just Southern blacks. His current exhibition stems from this research while also incorporating trigger-happy white cops in this notorious lineage (a grid of nine shots of ruined Ferguson, MO, or Justice for Michael Brown, Los Angeles, CA, 2015, a photo of a woman raising a placard).

It’s a parallel that rings true yet the complexity of this premise quickly washes out in the reality of the show itself. One of the Ferguson shots depicts the Beauty part of a salon sign capping a pile of rubble. Hands Up, 2015, a large framed C-print, shows a black woman in period dress raising her hands to the sky; behind her, a line of present-day riot cops, their ranks thickened by Photoshop’s clone-stamp. These topical throwaways seem almost nuanced compared to Run Up, 2015, which amounts to eight slow-motion minutes of cliché xenophobia: big calipers measuring the skull of the condemned; a rope sailing over a bough; or laughable shots of old-timers swilling moonshine from backlit glass jugs. A number of vaguely sepia production stills, printed on textured paper, flank the video. If the artist means to churn our stomachs, amateurishly processed, illustrative, and (yes) didactic art is not the way. Keinholz’s Five Car Stud, 1969–72, and Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) attack this tough subject with both violence and grace. A third example: Gonzales-Day’s own book, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Travis Diehl

Jon Pestoni

5130 West Edgewood Place
March 28–May 23

Jon Pestoni, Untitled, 2015, oil and mixed media on paper, mounted on aluminum with frame, 48 3/4 x 32 1/2 x 1 1/4".

Lots of people make paintings these days; few are painters; rarer still are those who, like Jon Pestoni, are able to contort the suspicious self-evidence of their medium into something complex. His latest solo exhibition presents ten self-deprecating, layered works, each broad swath neurotically qualifying the last with technically virtuosic, singular style.

Pestoni has spent long enough in this nonfigurative territory that the gestural arcs, dry-brushed on top of colors already jostling to recede and pop, read as self-aware, increasingly inadequate redactions. Topcoats smeared with wide curls both efface what came beneath and paradoxically suggest figures. In the big canvas Underbite (all works 2015), the artist submerges outlines of teeth and gums in several layers of expressive slurry, as if to say that figuration still won’t shut up. Equally wry is the way his successive almost wash-thin scribblings-out suggest a sense of depth—an optical feat immediately mocked by the cat litter that lends zones of his otherwise smooth paintings a kind of bargain texture. Throughout, melding with the dusty bold primaries of old Chevy trucks, are—not what are called acid hues, but—per the title of Tums—antacid. Tame, pastel mint, dirtied with yellow, finishes the twin calamari-like tori of Untitled.

Pestoni’s advanced color maneuvers perform the anxiety of painting—which nonetheless overpaints a very real self-effacement. So what if every abstraction is a small battle with the self? Pestoni maintains that even when painting is a cruel joke, maybe art isn’t.

Travis Diehl

Charles Gaines

10899 Wilshire Boulevard
March 3–May 24

Charles Gaines, Numbers and Trees II, Spike #4, 1987, watercolor, ink and pencil on masonite and acrylic sheet. 48 × 391⁄2".

In his early work, Charles Gaines pursued a cool hunt for the unknown at the far end of the hyperrational. Sol LeWitt claimed that Conceptual artists were mystics rather rationalists, but his branch of the movement certainly employed the most rational means possible to reach their spiritual ends. With correspondence between Gaines and LeWitt on view in this early-career survey, “Gridwork 1974–1989,” the elder artist’s gnomic utterances function almost as geometric postulates, but Gaines takes that Conceptualist affection for algorithmic indices to their logical conclusion and beyond.

Staring down a grove of trees, Gaines carefully breaks them into constituent parts and grids them by color (in Falling Leaves #10, 1978) to gridded Plexiglas overlays transforming black-and-white deadpan snapshots into richly hued brocades (Numbers and Trees V, Landscape #8: Orange Crow, 1989). His arbitrary but exhaustive systems, with their dependence on precise handwork and no discernable utility, can only mean the exercise is done for some other purpose. Seurat becomes a weird reference and not just in their procedural deployment of color, but also because the Impressionist obsessed over his own system, finding through science a rigid hypothesis for pictorial and emotional harmony (though Gaines clearly favors the joy of the process).

After 1989, issues of race, class, and power began to define Gaines’s material. Instead of trees or the lyric whirl of Trisha Brown dancing (“Motion: Trisha Brown Dance,” 1980–81), Edward Said and Frantz Fanon began to cameo in more explicitly political work. With a restrained quietude, Gaines’ early examinations into structures that underlie perception began to hint at other systems, those crafted by human's and marked by their inequalities, and which also truly shape the way we see.

Andrew Berardini