Critics’ Picks

Untitled, 2006–2007, ink on paper, 25 1/2 x 37".

Untitled, 2006–2007, ink on paper, 25 1/2 x 37".

Los Angeles

Michael G. Bauer

Circus Gallery
7065 Lexington Avenue
May 4–June 9, 2007

Obsessive and labor-intensive, Michael G. Bauer’s “Meditational Love Drawings” spell out LOVE with manic zeal, the word writ small over and over again until the continuous strands of repeated cursive cumulatively form intricate patterns and overlapping tonal fields. Scrawled in ballpoint pen and pencil, Bauer’s line is compulsively scripted into language that makes love stutter and spin in circles. Words go through acrobatics, running upside down and backward across the twenty-seven drawings on display, speaking of solitude, breakdown, infatuation, and grace simultaneously. Through repetition, language is rendered unfamiliar, its meaning distorted into near illegibility. With each word running into the next, LOVE becomes OVEL, VELO, and ELOV; elsewhere, LIBERATEYOURSELF nonsensically contains FLIBERATEYOU. Like an optical mantra, Bauer’s use of text verges on the hallucinatory and often performs the visual equivalent of orchestrated white noise. Out of palimpsest come unexpected forms.

From a distance, organic forms with bulbous growths, petals, and tentacles appear. Geometrically diagrammed configurations like aerial patterns and crop circles come into view; concentric rings echo throughout like rippling sound waves (the written word invoking the spoken voice). The delicate text pictures evoke the ornamental extravagances of illuminated manuscripts. Recalling parchment, pale yellows dominate, especially where the drawings are tinted in places with tea stains. The palette appears particularly warm installed above the blond wood floors of John Knuth’s new gallery, which is perhaps the ideal setting for this body of work, not least because the gallery is housed in the former warehouse of a local gay-porn business, a circumstance ghosting the drawings’ otherwise-tender recitations of love with a nymphomaniacal thrust and an ejaculatory potential.