Critics’ Picks

Alexandra Grant, body (2), second iteration, after Michael Joyce's “smoke,” 2010, oil on linen, 80 x 60”.

Alexandra Grant, body (2), second iteration, after Michael Joyce's “smoke,” 2010, oil on linen, 80 x 60”.

Los Angeles

Alexandra Grant

Honor Fraser
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
September 18–October 23, 2010

In a new suite of paintings, Alexandra Grant continues her collaboration with writer Michael Joyce, interpreting his poetry and giving it a decidedly physical heft. As in her previous work, Grant has isolated individual words, plucking them from the linear flow of writing and inscribing them inside quivering oval bubbles or outlines. The words become a species of object—or, more properly, body parts—in their own right.

Titled “Bodies,” the exhibition marks Grant’s shift from acrylic on paper to thickly painted oil on linen, a move that gives the works a more corporeal presence. Whereas in her earlier output words seemed to skim across smooth membranes, now they are embedded in a taut, fibrous structure. Organized in exuberant patterns of muscular arcs and stripes, the paintings, like bodies, are also bilaterally symmetrical. Each word is mirrored (albeit imperfectly) across an invisible vertical boundary, and the backward writing reminds us that words are as much formal arrangements of shape and line as specific, content-bearing symbols. This transformation also evokes religious uses of writing or calligraphy as a form of meditation.

With their searing colors and obsessively repeated mark-making, the paintings gesture more toward the ecstasies of devotional art than toward the rigors of modern abstraction. In this sense, they suggest a rapturous alternative to the mind/body dichotomy, insisting that the various ways in which we understand and internalize the world, from abstract thought to concrete physical experience, are really all one and the same.