Los Angeles

Richard Yokomi

Nicholas Wilder Gallery

While Novros’s two works make only a pair, his greater body of work indicates a series, an “obsessive image,” or simply a deliberately limited (for clarity) set of formal problems. It’s safe to say that most younger artists are thinking in sets, and the difficulty in sorting out good stuff from bad stuff is in telling the difference between passionate narrowing and mere bright ideas. A survey view of current art looks like a chessboard, with most squares occupied. Once in a while the intersection of stylistic elements (hypothetically, “funk” and “light-as-medium”) is found vacant and a claim is staked, a show is born. That Richard Yokomi’s new work arouses that kind of feeling in me is not in itself negative; predictability (in the sense one feels relieved rather than surprised by a show) is a fact-of-life on the scene, no better or worse than plastics, computers, or guerilla theatre. Where an artist works (occupied square, unoccupied square, or off the board) is irrelevant to why he’s there and what he does with it.

Yokomi shows five paintings, combinations of half-circles arranged in 1) a shallow horizontal arc, 2) a circle with the flat edge toward the center, 3) a spiral with the flat edge clockwise and 4) a broken spiral, all about ten feet high and/or wide. Some of the half-circles are real, others illusionary, running into strings of as many as four. The material—stained duck canvas—is “imperfect,” i.e., wrinkled and shrunk and stapled to the wall. The colors are similarly natural—pink, light green, brown, light red, all “canvas-y”—and include infrequent applications of heavily mediumed, glistening, broad impasto. From the arbitrariness of the half-circles, the concern, in spite of all the painterly tools, is with the thing, therefore with the idea, and therefore with leaving deliberate room for further series. (Which is, to me, a slight debit. The beauty of Lichtenstein and Stella is the head-on way with which each approached a cul-de-sac, and then avoided it.)

Strangely, again it’s the painterly qualities which turn the works into objects. The chromatic variance (stain v. glossy) indicates an object which is colored, rather than a surface painted into; the illusion of half-circles reinforces the physicality of those that are “real”; and the application of paint, in itself, calls attention to the funk physicality of the canvas. Taken contextually (in light of other people’s work). Yokomi’s paintings could have something to do with an emphatic two-dimensionality (LeWitt’s wall drawings, William Tuttle’s canvases), with post-Minimal loosening-up of objects (Morris’, felt or Serra’s rubber sculpture), or with funky painting (Tom Holland’s recent work, the previous show at Wilder, which, although more material, read more as painting). Nevertheless (again), Yokomi’s paintings, intelligently hung in only five of the gallery’s perhaps nine available spaces, have what used to be called “presence.” It might be argued that my insistence on a) being painting or sculpture and b) being contextual is irrelevant to this day of fading boundaries and to formalist criticism. I can only say that the limits, or unlimits, of painting are more interesting simply because sculpture (objectness) has no limits; and, since most current art is predicated on “issues,” it is by nature contextual.

Peter Plagens