Critics’ Picks

Shizu Saldamando, La Otra Gerry, 2009, gold leaf, washi paper, oil, glitter, wood, 60 x 36”.

Shizu Saldamando, La Otra Gerry, 2009, gold leaf, washi paper, oil, glitter, wood, 60 x 36”.

Los Angeles

Shizu Saldamando

Vincent Price Art Museum
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
September 10–December 7, 2013

Whether drinking, kissing, or huddling in bathroom stalls or on concert room floors, Shizu Saldamando’s subjects exude a sense of glittery calm—the girls are tough, the boys are vulnerable, and nonconformity rules. Cool kids dangle cigarettes emitting shimmering smoke, pose with gestures that seem coded for insiders, and embrace one another with a sweetness more reminiscent of the flowery essence of courtly romance than the edgy complexity of contemporary intimacy. In this exhibition’s delicate drawings, meticulous paintings, and collages, Saldamando lends her subjects (and her friends) a surreal beauty that borders on the Baroque.

As in the drawing Maria Daniela y su Sonido Lasser Concert, Azusa, CA, 2008, every smooth-skinned face and buzzed or billowy coif is depicted with lively strokes that animate even the most relaxed posture. But the visual exuberance in this and other works in the show is offset by a sea of empty space; nearly every image of this dyed and tattooed tribe is devoid of background context, save a tuft of grass, the edge of a doorframe, or a title indicating locale (see In Between Sets, 2010, or Backyard Hardcore, 2012), echoing the buoyant serenity that runs through this survey exhibition.

The ponytailed, pink-lipped, and goateed subject of the collage, La Otra Gerry, 2009, leans precariously into the edge of the frame, a bottle and a paper cup in hand, wearing a shirt created from gold leaf; the garment suggests an elaborate talisman, equal parts protection and glamour. Some of the strongest pieces, however, are rendered with the simplest of means—be it by pencil or ballpoint pen on pages torn from notebooks, on white handkerchiefs, or on flowered bedsheets, such as the poignant portraits on handkerchiefs in the series “LA Club Kids 1, 2, 3, and 4,” 2009. These suggest a seamless integration with the life Saldamando circumscribes: a seemingly magical place where youth is everlasting and everyday existence is transformed through close attention.