Critics’ Picks

View of “Sam Pulitzer and Peter Wächtler,” 2016.

Los Angeles

Sam Pulitzer and Peter Wächtler

Gaga, Los Angeles
2228 W 7th St 2nd floor (entrance on S. Grand View St.)
December 11–February 4

Flanking the entryway of the upstairs gallery are two leather cutouts in the shape of depleted hounds. Peter Wächtler’s Dog 1 and 2 (all works 2016) loll on the floor like floppy shadows of the space’s twin mission-style windows. The scene inside is a pastiche of modern wit and dusty formalism, cast in flat light: Wächtler’s pastel drawings of volcanoes on the walls and glass starfish on plinths are intercepted by Sam Pulitzer’s smallish illustrations on ivory paper that looks aged, but isn’t. Pulitzer’s series has the grainy erudition of certain New Yorker covers but is otherwise slumming it, in weird edgeless frames fixed to retail displays from ULINE. In You’ve Got It, two faces on the strokes of a jazzy letter X pep each other up; Comrades, Not Colleagues frames a tableau of balaclava-clad revolutionaries, all eggplant and turquoise, graphically rounded off like smartphone icons. The images cite eclectic styles, yet—as if they’ve all been yanked from texts—they share a sense of missing action.

Wächtler’s five “I Don’t Want to Live (Seesterne)” sculptures, handblown in orange and blue glass, are delicately plopped on pedestals of varying height—yet their pudgy arms look like tongues more than anything, pulling apart five ways. For the other half of the depressive’s paradox, there’s his “I Don’t Want to Die,” also a quintet, comprising bold-hued pictures of an erupting volcano. These heavy sheets of paper slump unframed on the wall with the attitude of rush-job Jack Goldsteins—brilliant purple or blue or green skies behind sketchy dark wedges of cinder cone and smoke, a line of Pompeiian doom dribbling down. It’s a grand subject, returned to an appropriately petty scale—and no further: These two young artists recognize what a drained gesture it would be to send the old guards off forever.