Critics’ Picks

View of “Jason Yates,” 2009. From left: Super Cent, 2008; Dreamabily Emissions, 2008; We Used to Be Friends, 2008; Master Witch, 1998–2007.

Los Angeles

Jason Yates

Circus Gallery
7065 Lexington Avenue
May 23 - June 27

Jason Yates has circulated outside the conventional gallery circuit and its institutionally sanctioned seriousness for years. Preferring the exuberant experimentation of his local drugged-out rock scene, Yates has defined his aesthetic through one-of-a-kind rock posters (collectively called Fast Friends Inc.), which he hung, free for the taking, in LA neighborhoods like Echo Park and Silver Lake. In his current show, several of these posters are on display upstairs, each a colorful psychedelic explosion of creatures, captions, and hundreds of stickers. Despite the relentless energy and obvious trippiness of Fast Friends Inc., the huge latch-hook tapestry that depicts a shaggy Captain Beefheart hanging nearby, which Yates began while working for Mike Kelley during graduate school and spent about a decade laboriously knotting, is a much stranger and stronger object, with the manic monumentality of, in the artist’s words, “the ultimate thrift-store find.”

But the majority of Yates’s exhibition, “The Rise and Fall of Shame,” comprises more formal, pared-down works that develop within a restricted graphic language of obsessive hatch marks drawn primarily in black, white, and red. Rotated and layered, the lines are meticulously ordered by multiple overlapping systems. Yates has learned from the dumb replication possibilities of a Xerox machine. The paintings exercise the changing focus of the eye like decorative high school doodle versions of Jasper Johns’s crosshatch paintings of the 1970s. Angled facets of dense parallel lines cover the canvases with a lacy curtain of marks that descends in a cascade of scalloped scales, ending a few inches short of the bottom edge. Yates feathers the surfaces like the skirt of a couture dress by cutting crescent flaps in the canvases and inserting reflective Mylar underneath that flashes with cheap glamour. An elegant rectangular sculpture, Love Hate, 2009, and two etched mirrors, I Can Stop Anytime I Want To #10 and I Can Stop Anytime I Want Too, both 2009, reiterate the paintings’ repetitive patterning, while an enormous wall drawing maps jagged bands of vertical black stripes around much of the space. Yates’s incessant modular mark making affirms a zoned-out, altered experience of time’s passing and an insistently manual reclamation of space as a place to get lost in.