Los Angeles

Tony Delap

Janus Gallery

Tony DeLap, like Robert Mangold, is a seductive but unsung colorist. The color of the irregularly shaped canvases in DeLap’s current exhibition defies any attempt to describe or convey a sense of it: pale yet rich silvery eggplant, thundercloud gray with silvery olive drab overtones, and so on. Although the surface color is uniform, monochromatic it is not.

The elusive yet palpable presence of DeLap’s color informs the physical structure of his paintings. The three large works in this show are variations on a basic format; in each a square canvas is abutted to one interior edge cut from a tondo. Viewed frontally, these paintings appear to be simple, shaped canvases, constructed from a self-referential mathematical formula. The related drawings confirm this idea, but the work is not just a Minimalist retread.

The shaped canvases cast strongly delineated shadows on the wall, shadows that do not correspond to rational expectations. The effect is achieved by the extreme contortions of the stretcher bars. As much wall reliefs as paintings, DeLap’s pieces require the viewer to move around them. DeLap has paid an extraordinary amount of attention to craftsmanship in the paintings. Like his choice of color and his structural contortions, the obsessively honed quality of the work insists upon close scrutiny. All together, the demands placed on one’s eyes are severe.

Both the indescribable color and seemingly irrational shadows of the work are the result of light falling on the paintings; the contorted canvases orient the work (and the viewer) in space. The so-called “light and space” esthetic in Southern California—represented by the work of such artists as Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Larry Bell, Dewain Valentine, et al —is generally considered to be the province of sculptors and environmental artists. Surprisingly, DeLap may very well be its most accomplished painter.

Christopher Knight