Los Angeles

David Novros

Mizuno Gallery

That David Novros is from Los Angeles but lives in New York is informative: his latest shown works (a year and a half old) are products both of what is known as the Los Angeles “finish fetish” and the tough-minded New York “there it is; that’s it” outlook. Novros’s show is simple: two works, each twelve right-facing upright and upside down L’s, hung on opposite walls of the gallery cube. The panels, manufactured in fiberglass about half an inch deep, have almost imperceptibly rounded corners which help them function as paintings. Novros’s color has moved away from the earlier monochrome pearlescence into a variety, including ochre, Indian red, brown, dark green. The surface seems to have loosened up, too, at least in parts; the overspraying of a few L’s is cloudy and transparent.

The two paintings operate in dualities. One is dark, the other light, and, since one cannot see both simultaneously, the memory-image of one is present in perceiving the other (an effect enhanced by their geometric character), an ambiguity of sameness (format) and difference (location, color). Within each piece the L’s are used almost modularly, except that, according to Novros, they are not esthetically moveable: a top and a bottom, big units and smaller ones, and the tucking in of the smaller parts which brings in an additional element, the “crease” between the physical forms. The format makes sense of Novros’s plural color: each color makes its part specific rather than interchangeable. The paintings are refinement, rather than innovation, and it’s possible that Novros doesn’t want to tinker with a trademark configuration which has, so far, done him well. I don’t think that’s the case, and, if it were, it has to do with artists and not art. Novros’s concern is an art-problem: the interior limits of painting, and, within his format, he takes his share of chances. The first is the hovering presence of sculpture (objectness); these works are, after all, polypartite and “shaped.” Moreover, they retain a conceptual flavor, an austerity in the neighborhood of Carl Andre’s metal rugs, and this mitigates against painting, which carries overtones of sensuality and illusion. Finally, a couple of Novros’s devices, seemingly painterly, support his works’ sculptural qualities: the varied color calls attention to the individual fragments as separate things, and the use of adjacent L’s, perhaps to break down silhouette, creates that “crease,” a very physical quality.

Nevertheless, the pieces succeed (the lighter more than the darker, since it overcomes the insistent silhouette) for reasons which, in spite of a lot of attempted analysis, remain vague to me.

Peter Plagens