Critics’ Picks

View of “New Gravity,” 2014.

View of “New Gravity,” 2014.

Los Angeles

“New Gravity”

Overduin & Co.
6693 Sunset Boulevard
September 7–October 25, 2014

“New Gravity,” it seems, is not so grave as the old stuff. Curated by Olivian Cha and Eli Diner, this show fields interventions by seven artists that—rather than programmatically deconstructing their context, as might be expected of a previous generation—engage the gallery in playful, even decorative ways.

A series of “Fluorescent Fittings” by Chadwick Rantanen, for example, augment one room’s lighting fixtures with cutesy plastic extensions from Beehive/Black to Birds and Bunnies/White, 2014. Elsewhere, Rantanen jams the gap between two standard wall works by Frank Benson and Oliver Payne with an “expressive” ribbon of carbon fiber. It hardly bears repeating that art follows a set of conventions—cool or daylight bulbs, rectangles in frames—and that these clichés might be poked or embellished. Far more interesting to cut chaos with elegant, existential wit. For her contribution, Kitty Kraus embedded an incandescent lightbulb in a block of inked ice, which then leaked a black electric puddle through the scores in the concrete floor. Liquid pools under a window, leaving rings as it dries, sinking any comment on the architecture to ground level.

Mahony wages a similar entropy against the white cube: Directly inside the entrance, a wide pile of granulated cork offers surprisingly springy footing, before being tracked through the gallery like high-end dirt. Weirder still to deny physics outright—or at least use art as an exit strategy. Payne’s pair of trompe l’oeil murals—in the fine style of painting as window—offers views of the show, between the gallery rooms, as if through a linked portal. Here the reference isn’t to Vermeer so much as Valve, the game developer behind the Portal puzzle franchise. The new gravity seems strongest where the reconfigured tropes of high art manage to re-ascend, despite themselves, into a profound register—aided by whatever tweaks to traditional, weighty angst.