Critics’ Picks

View of “Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting,” 2014.

Los Angeles

“Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting”

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
August 24–March 22

“Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting” tests the limits of abstraction’s abundance by assembling a luxurious stable of paintings, as well as videos and sculptures. Works by expected names such as Amy Sillman, Mark Bradford, Gerhard Richter, Julie Mehretu, Albert Oehlen, and Christopher Wool ground this exhibition, but it is the addition of less expected practitioners and practices that makes it particularly comprehensive and surprising.

Analia Saban’s banal and elegant marble countertop on linen, Kohler 5931 Kitchen Sink #2, 2014, Anthony Pearson’s framed pigmented Hydrocal Untitled (Plaster Positive), 2013, and Dianna Molzan’s wrapped and painted stretcher bars, Untitled, 2012, excavate painting’s sculptural repressions. Even the influence of critics and curators is made present by printing their words rather literally onto the gallery walls. By including media other than paint and canvas, “Variations” outlines a kind of expanded field for painting that continues out to evocative interlocutions in sculpture and video. A. K. Burns’s Touch Parade, 2011, a video of various banal fetish gestures, Rachel Lachowicz’s Cell: Interlocking Construction, 2010, a Lucite sculpture filled with blue cosmetic powders, or Diana Thater’s video of a hooded, perched Female Peregrine Falcon (Brook), 2012, expand the exhibition to implicate the tactile, aural, visceral, and erotic. Assembled largely from works already in or slated to join LACMA’s permanent collection, “Variations” offers a less than temporary endorsement of these objects as well as of the practices to which they metonymically link.