Critics’ Picks

View of “Marina Kappos,” 2008. From left: 133, 2008; 134, 2008; and 135, 2008.

Los Angeles

Marina Kappos

The Happy Lion
963 Chung King Road
October 25–December 20

Perhaps it’s true that there are no new stories to tell—or ways to tell them—but certainly, innumerable combinations of the familiar still exist. In an ambitious new body of work, Los Angeles–based artist Marina Kappos blends references to ancient Greek vase painting, characterized by the same kind of flatness that seemed to crop up in much painting from LA a few years back, and the very current—and definitely invigorating—political scene. Aesthetically inspired by her Greek heritage, and creatively by the recent election and her attendance of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Kappos’s multipanel paintings feature a freewheeling parade of Americana that includes a portrait of the president-elect; the artist as a chorus girl wearing red, white, and blue; and sundry flags, oil rigs, and guns. The combination of sharply delineated figures and a rich, graphic palette leads one to the initial impression that this is yet another stream of highly saturated and fast-paced political ads. But another look at these carefully constructed paintings reveals something more mysterious: A deeply personal iteration of the public psyche, marked by the same dissonant simultaneity of confusion and enthusiasm experienced by a nation in the throes of war, economic crisis, and a historic election. The rampant mimicking of iconic words—hope, experience, change—and accompanying images that has resulted from the merging of a wary public with an intensely visual and media-heavy national campaign is on full, excitable view in Kappos’s imagery: a slick black silhouette of a fashionista in a burka, the doppelgänger of a Gap model wearing a tight T-shirt framed by the geometric abstraction of a home’s FOR SALE sign, and pretty young things in patriotic dress bobbing like jaunty sails on a sea of dislocated limbs and looming destruction. While it’s hard to comment with clarity on a history still very much in the making, and Kappos’s work suffers from a barrage of imagery with little room for pause, what is lacking in depth here is more than made up for in passion.