Critics’ Picks

Eugenia P. Butler, Flesh Drawing No.1, 1990, prisma sticks, graphite, pastel, pen, colored pencil on paper, 81 x 64".

Los Angeles

Eugenia P. Butler

The Box
805 Traction Avenue
September 15–November 3

Eugenia P. Butler’s The Kitchen Table, 1993, is a fifteen-hour collection of videos originally produced for the Art/LA fair in which various artists (including Allan Kaprow and Joan Jonas) have dinner and talk about art. In the context of the fair, Butler’s video presents talk itself as a medium—what she called “dialogic sculpture”—though the conversations are less serious than this description might suggest (much like Butler herself, who would smile and crack jokes in cartoon voices when filmed). Avuncular feels like the right word.

The Kitchen Table is part of the Box’s wide-ranging exhibition of Butler’s work, all of which possesses a tonal levity. The earliest works shown are printed texts from circa 1967 that include pseudoscientific phrases such as “vertical static electricity field” or “negative space hole.” In her “Flesh Paintings,” produced in the 1990s, Butler visually explores energies associated with the human body, demonstrating a mastery of other languages and other media. While no bodies are represented in Flesh Drawing No. 1, 1990, the tactility of the blush-tone pastels comes across as organic, skin-like. Up close, you can see outlines of colored pencil beneath the pastel, like a faded tattoo or a wound beneath new skin.

In Can we create space?, 2000, Butler uses intersecting lines to suggest the interior of a cube. Throughout the composition, multicolored spheres seem to hover either inside or outside of the cube, depending on which of the colored trapezoids are perceived as opaque or transparent planes. The binary of inside and outside is made fluid. Impressively, this permeability of boundaries is not confusing or irritating but instead pleasurable and clever.