Critics’ Picks

Adam Ross, Hanging On by a Thread #6, 2007, mixed media on canvas over panel, 24 x 48".

Los Angeles

Robert Olsen/Adam Ross

Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
6006 Washington Boulevard
December 15–January 26

Ideal yet unavailable, utopia continues to fascinate centuries after the word was coined. “Utopias,” an exhibition pairing the paintings of Robert Olsen and Adam Ross, embraces the gravity and lyricism of this quixotic concept. In the smaller of Ross’s works, the collision of references is a celebration of abstraction, but in larger mixed-media panels, these multiple styles harmonize like the inner workings of an improbable factory. Ribbons of metallic gray quietly explode in diaphanous clouds of milky-white paint; elsewhere in each image, seething and decadently luminous patches of color look like fractured rainbows or carnival big tops tumbling in on themselves. If Ross’s works reveal the sharp edges of an urban utopia, Olsen’s geometric interiors cast a similarly surreal specter in an entirely different way, thus making for an ingenious pairing. Austere benches sit in what appear to be miniature rooms. These are based on photographs of bus stops, though they're more reminiscent of oversize jewels floating in inky-black nothingness. Polished floors and gridded ceilings seem to reflect the light of a single brilliant white rectangle, but the effect is eerie, more alien or religious than the brightest patch of sunlight. Three smaller paintings detail a Union 76 globe in various shades of ripened orange; these, too, hover in mysterious darkness, but the familiarity of the logo is jarring. It’s as if utopia, however desolate or broken, had been found for an instant before the mirage was, inevitably, shattered.