Critics’ Picks

Installation view.

Installation view.

Los Angeles

Richard Aldrich, Olivia Booth, Brian Fahlstrom, Carrie Gundersdorf, et al.

Marc Foxx Gallery
6150 Wilshire Boulevard
February 19–March 19, 2005

Despite the so-called “return of figurative painting,” this exhibition suggests that young artists are equally interested in invigorating painting by redeploying the vocabulary of Modernist abstraction with new syntax that generally avoids irony. Brian Fahlstrom’s lush (almost) monochromes in grey and purple, mediated by three smaller canvases featuring busier brushwork, intimate that the bigger works might be hiding some expressive underpainting, or—conversely—are fields awaiting further action. Olivia Booth’s paintings on glass panels lean against the wall, frequently achieving weightlessness through her engagement with paint and transparency; the glass supports provide an elusive “objecthood” that makes the wall a dynamic ground for stunning retinal effects. Candace Nycz’s paintings employ layered patterns of thinned oils in colors that owe as much to Easter eggs as Matisse; simultaneously tough and sweet, her work evidences a looser, more painterly update of Op-art without losing the visual delirium of the hard-edge variety. Richard Aldrich delivers sixteen small oil-and-wax paintings on panel; three are included in the group exhibition, with thirteen isolated in the back gallery. Eschewing stylistic coherence, each of Aldrich’s paintings spells out a single idea, like a phrase; the baker’s dozen in the back room provides a substantial essay on the endless syntactical possibilities of painting. Sterling Ruby’s thickly glazed ceramic work on wood and marble blocks, and his austere but unsettling geometric works on paper, complicate the idea of a “painting show” by displacing painterly syntax outside the presumed boundaries of a medium that is most vital when defining its limits.