Critics’ Picks

Lari Pittman, Flying Carpet with Petri Dishes for a Disturbed Nation, 2013, Cel-vinyl, spray enamel on canvas over wood panel, 108 x 360 1/4".

Los Angeles

Lari Pittman

Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd
November 9–December 21

Screaming across three of the biggest walls at Regen Projects are Lari Pittman’s “Flying Carpets” (all works 2013)—the three most obviously spectacular works in his optically violent “From a Late Western Impaerium.” Each nine-by-thirty-foot opus interweaves the styles of multiple empires, risen and fallen—bleak and compressed, both steampunk and RGB—into contemporary “history paintings” resembling plasticky deco murals on the walls of a ruined drawing room. Circular “portholes” anchor the giant panels—Victorian “magic mirrors” figure in one, petri dishes in another—and are backed by sweeps of arabesques, feathers, guns, ducks, musical staves, and ghostly faces. In the painting Flying Carpet with a Waning Moon over a Violent Nation, a chain of sniper scopes tracks a phasing disk across an airbrushed wasteland. Surrounded by graphs, frames, and geometric embellishments, the crosshairs seem almost decorative.

More brutal still are the ranks of other paintings—eighty-nine more—that include two medium-size works featuring needlepoint hoops crowned with pill or chromosome forms, and several grids of smaller recombinant paintings on paper containing eight to twelve panels each. The groupings pay homage to Fernand Léger and Hermenegildo Bustos, as well as Fayum portraiture and composer Giacomo Puccini, yet also implicate these references in the world’s present state of disorder, decadence, spectacle, and surveillance. Twelve Pavilions Designed for Viewing First-World Atrocities incorporates a mess of signals: stencils, graffiti, and dashed-out white figures, rendered in rich but dusty purples and oranges that taint the act of looking with oppressive force. True to form, Pittman wields ideas of craft and ornamentation as psychic weapons. This staggering exhibition leverages the artist’s late-career opulence against the graphic myths of the late-capitalist culture we inhabit—portraying art as overwrought to the point of fracture.