Critics’ Picks

View of “David von Schlegell,” 2012.

View of “David von Schlegell,” 2012.

Los Angeles

David von Schlegell

China Art Objects Galleries
6337 Church Street
August 7, 2015–February 4, 2012

Though David von Schlegell is better known (to those who know) for his numerous large-scale public sculptures of the 1970s and ’80s sited in the urban and natural landscape, the Park Place Gallery–adjacent artist was also a painter of considerable consequence and enduring vision. Beyond a selection of drawings, models, and maquettes related to his sculptural practice, this exhibition presents a rare opportunity to view von Schlegell’s late series of four-foot-square monochromes from the early 1990s. Poured over with a wash, each panel is a gradient field of darkly pooled pigment with a concentrated opacity that simulates surprising depth. Space recedes elusively along the work’s internal diagonal axis, suggesting the perspective of rectilinear architectures even as subtle modulations of tone and ghostly trails of pigment on the matte surface project some other, more ethereal and cosmic sense of liquid or gaseous space occasionally pocked with specks of dust like streaking meteors and galactic clusters. Von Schlegell used paint for its fluid chemical possibilities in a way that anticipated the now very contemporary look of abstract Color Field photography.

Four smaller and denser monochromes emanate a restrained radiance that proves even more gripping for the works’ intimacy. Bookended by vertical bars of wood, these more domestic objects contain an aged warmth and worn craft that ties them to a previous utopian moment in which the converging proximities of modernism and Minimalism determined von Schlegell’s formative historical context and pinned ideological stakes to each of his aesthetic constructions.