Critics’ Picks

Charles Gaines, Numbers and Trees: Central Park Series II: Tree #3, Susanne, 2015, black-and-white photographs and acrylic on Plexiglas on three panels, 8 x 10 1/2'.

Charles Gaines, Numbers and Trees: Central Park Series II: Tree #3, Susanne, 2015, black-and-white photographs and acrylic on Plexiglas on three panels, 8 x 10 1/2'.

Los Angeles

Charles Gaines

Vielmetter Los Angeles
1700 S Santa Fe Ave #101
October 29–December 16, 2016

Many who are familiar with the work of Conceptualist Charles Gaines will recognize here the sequence of grids and numbers from his “Numbers and Trees: Central Park Series II,” 2015–16. The artist’s commitment to his system-based methodology for critiquing clichés of artistic impulse is seen in eight large-scale black-and-white photographs of Central Park, overlaid with acrylic Plexiglas boxes: Tree #1, Paula, Tree #2, Elmore, Tree #3, Susanne, Tree #4, Steve, Tree #5, Lucas, Tree #7, Laurel, all 2015, and Tree #6, Fredrick and Tree #8, Amelia, both 2016, which are exhibited alongside eight smaller ink-on-paper drawings from the series “Numbers and Trees: Central Park Series I,” 2016.

In this project, the tree retains its status as the central form of the artist’s painterly deconstruction. His work with such imagery began in 1975 with Walnut Tree Orchard, in which he broke down the organic lines of a walnut tree into a numerical system after encountering Tantric Buddhist diagrams. Within the Plexiglas structures in this show, the vertical row of cells that number zero appear to slice through the photographic version of the tree underneath. From that middle, ascending numbers grow and shoot off to the left and right sides, offering new language to the signification of a tree through movement, color, and shape. These subjects become more layered, complex, and vibrant as the viewer moves from one to the next in an installation as logical as the images’ paint-by-numbers appearance.

In a recent interview, the artist stated: “The entire history of art is political,” owing to individual social and cultural experiences that are brought to bear on any encounter with an object. In this show, which branches out from room to room, we observe that anything ostensibly natural can also be ordered according to human, and therefore political, principles.