Critics’ Picks

Dan Finsel, E-thay Inward-yay Ourney-jay: Ecoming-Bay Art-Pay Of-Yay E-Thay Amily-Fay (Our-Fay), 2013, black-and-white photograph and oil paint, 68 x 52".

Los Angeles

Dan Finsel

Richard Telles Fine Art
7380 Beverly Blvd
March 16–April 20

“Meeting Your Dark Self”; “Meeting the Inner Other in Paint”; “Contacting the Inner Man in Every Woman/the Inner Woman in Every Man”—these chapters of Margaret Frings Keyes’s 1974 self-help primer The Inward Journey: Art as Therapy for You structure and guide Dan Finsel’s trip down the rabbit hole of psychoanalysis. In its immersiveness, the exhibition is an extension of the artist’s already established penchant for method acting and inhabiting psychic roles. In its use of Pig Latin for titles throughout, the show—“E-thay Inward-Yay Ourney-Jay”—characteristically taps Finsel’s deep well of absurdity and parody, recoding self-indulgence as self-effacement.

Applying the book’s Gestalt and Jungian principles, in tandem with its retro graphic design and color palette, Finsel created a symbol system in which each of his family members equals one of five visual variables, sculpted in permanently moist oil-based clay, that together constitute the basis for the works on view. Paintings of grisaille pretzels and plumbing fixtures set against brightly colored backgrounds render the clay symbols into something between a Game of Thrones mandala-sigil and a Billy Al Bengston painting. Three sculptures corresponding to developmental stages in the artist’s life feature blocky familial stand-ins arranged on tables of contrasting style and color. The glassy surface of one he calls Amily-Fay Ulpture-Scay: Adolescence-Yay, 2013, is a perfectly still basin of black ink, reflective like a darkling mirror.

The equivalence posed between pedestals and tables occurs again in Finsel’s amazing self-portrait photographs—large hand-colored prints depicting the artist squatting and kneeling nude on a small wooden folding table in the middle of what must be lewd unrepressing exercises, like being double-penetrated by a serpentine clay pipe. Therapeutic or not, Finsel’s inward journey is gripping psychodrama because it demonstrates in such a visceral yet tasteful, deadpan yet lurid way how art can fuck the artist as much as it can heal him.