Critics’ Picks

View of “Mark Roeder,” 2014.

Los Angeles

Mark Roeder

Michael Benevento
3712 Beverly Boulevard
January 25–March 8, 2014

In this show of one hundred paintings, densely hung salon style for concentrated horror vacui effect, Mark Roeder proves his facility and feeling for the medium while planting a perverse and vital antagonism at its heart. Each work is dubbed an Antipainting: The artist is resisting something.

The graphic Antipaintings are generally painted thinly and simply in discrete black strokes on white canvases stretched or unstretched at varying sizes. They are flat and inky, recalling pen drawings, and several are distinctly informed by the spare stylings of Charles Schulz (that other Californian whom the artist cites as his prime artistic influence). Roeder paints best when he produces images like he’s writing, or calligraphing, which in several works is literally what he’s doing. See Antipainting (Note – LSD Death Trip), 2013, which reproduces the final note that Aldous Huxley scrawled to his wife on his deathbed. Dimensionality is key: Dramatic drips across numerous works expand their apparent flatness into a psychoactive space the artist names “multidimensional” in titles.

Roeder’s resistance has to do in part with the fact that he approaches painting as a photographer—whatever that may be in the age of Instagram, Tumblr, et al. It also has to do with the fact that the paintings are representations of California, his homeland. Interrogating what it is to be native and what is the experience of a nation, he distills his Californicity to pictures of indigenous plants and birds, the last Chumash natives, sweat lodges, conquistadors, Viking ships, Queen Calafia, gold miners, Neil Young, a forest fire, comely women, and, most of all, grand coastal scenes of headlands, tufted cliffs, surf, and sweeping beaches. A selective sampling of the mythic, historic, and should-or-would-be-iconic filters the geography he inhabits in terms of the private imaginary. Throughout, his resistant stance is bound up with a serious reconsideration of regionalism.