Critics’ Picks

View of “Objects, Decorative and Functional,” 2011.

Los Angeles

Mari Eastman

Cherry and Martin
2712 S. La Cienega Boulevard
April 2–May 7, 2011

Mari Eastman’s candelabras, fashioned to look like owls and deer and presented on unfinished wooden plinths, start to propose some connectedness to ritual, simple usefulness, and ancient wisdom; yet this elusive meaning soon skitters into the trees. The candleholder is only—emphatically only—an object: one more owl statuette at one more vintage store, one more vague New Age annexation. In her paintings, too, which are installed at various heights around the gallery’s walls, loose correspondences of depleted references seem to chatter across the room. Tina on Her Birthday, 2010, is a coarse portrait of a woman overlaid with a cubist doodle of several sets of facial features. My Architect, 2011, updates Mondrian for the twenty-first century, dislodging his geometries and pepping up his palette. Neither allusion seems out of place near Artemis, 2008–11, a mixed-media work on burlap, in which a collaged figure rides a mammoth stag through a forest of dark green doodles.

If Eastman’s imagery seems pleasant but vacant, even decorative, this serves to underscore the ravenous, indiscriminate appetite of consumer culture. The paintings, drawings, and sculptures in this exhibition are roughly rendered in materials including silver, Flashe, colored pencil, glass crystals, and glitter; equalized within this style, the array of Greek myths, religious emblems, historical references, and pop culture icons accrue into an omnivorous symbology. The foliage that adorns many of the images, ranging from a vase of flowers to cherry blossoms to a tropical garden, starts to resemble the same collapsed version of Rousseau’s glinting jungle. A handful of framed drawings stored in a pedestal includes Aftermath, 2005, a Prismacolor rendering of Vietnam-era American GIs standing near a crumpled (scribbled) body while hot pink flames bloom in the background. History of all kinds becomes motif or accent within a hedonistic logic. Cute gets cuter, bright gets brighter. Eastman’s images are unmoored sketches of a kind of cultural ether, beguilingly leveling, quietly devouring.