Critics’ Picks

Pae White, Smoke Knows, 2009, tapestry, 9' 6“ x 21' 6”. Installation view.

Pae White, Smoke Knows, 2009, tapestry, 9' 6“ x 21' 6”. Installation view.

Los Angeles

Pae White

6150 Wilshire Blvd.
May 9–June 20, 2009

Pae White is best known for her sculptural installations, which celebrate color and a tenuous kind of anti-form. In most of these, individual pieces of felt, fabric, and paper hang together as if suspended between dissolving and cohering. Flux and fusion remain at the heart of White’s new body of work, but the results are surprisingly material. Multiple woven tapestries drape from the walls alongside carved paper drawings. In all these, the subject remains constant: smoke. White begins by photographing smoke in action. Expert weavers in Belgium then translate these images into stunning tapestries. For the drawings, White has created the image of smoke via a laser cutter. In both scenarios, the process is unflinchingly technical and the results surprisingly esoteric. Wispy tendrils of smoke move evocatively through and across the woven and carved surfaces with a formal beauty that resonates with the best abstract painting, but the bigger achievement here is that White captures the most fleeting states—transparency, evanescence, dissolution—via the controlled manufacture of so many solid objects. White’s trademark scattering is also on view in two installations of handmade leaves; though not the strongest works in the show, these provide a visual and emotional cue by which to read the rest of the work, suggesting (more so than the jejune exhibition title, “Smoke Knows”) the invariable passing of time, beauty, and form. Disappearance and demise have not likely received so attractive and imaginative an elegy.