Critics’ Picks

Brandon Lattu, Flat, 1997-1999.

Brandon Lattu, Flat, 1997-1999.

Los Angeles

Brandon Lattu, Scott Lyall, Corey McCorkle

Mary Goldman Gallery
932 Chung King Road, Chinatown
February 15–March 22, 2003

This extremely spare exhibition sets up a dialogue among a well-selected trio on the legacy of a “less is more” modernism. In particular, the two artists from outside California—Lyall, from Toronto, and McCorkle, from New York—have used the exhibition as an opportunity to engage with Los Angeles minimalism, a body of work often lumped under the category “Finish Fetish.” Lyall leans a Plexiglas rectangle against the wall, and its dark reflective surface and machined precision remind one of a John McCracken plank. But as one walks about the gallery, hints of an image permanently just out of focus appear in one’s peripheral vision. Adhered to the Plexiglas is a Duratrans film on which one thousand frames of Faye Dunaway’s death scene from Bonnie and Clyde are composited onto a single frame—an apt allusion to LA minimalism’s tendency to frustrate any straightforward ideas we may have about an object. Similarly, McCorkle’s two fluorescent light fixtures—one in the main space and one above the gallery’s desk—make an obvious reference to Dan Flavin. The amber light, however, is anything but industrial, and upon closer inspection one sees that McCorkle has sheathed each fluorescent tube with an exotic hardwood veneer. The incredible patterning of the woods and the the viewer’s engagement in the craftsmanship involved slow down the visual experience, emphasizing what Robert Irwin said was the crucial distinction between West and East Coast minimalism: In Los Angeles it was all about perception, while in New York the conceptual held sway. In contrast to Lyall and McCorkle, Lattu returns to architecture, the field that embodied the first important indigenous modernism in southern California. His digitally constructed photograph presents a continuous worm’s-eye view of the ceilings in an apartment. Painted different colors, the ceilings signal the type of activity appropriate to each room—work, relaxation, utility—and point out that architectural modernism offered a complete design for living.