San Diego

Gary Lang

Gary Lang’s kaleidoscopic vision has just completed another spin. Melody has replaced the cacophony of his earlier imagery. He has erased the automobiles, brightly colored candies, flying birds, traffic signals, and airplanes of former years and filled his canvases with a dense network of shape and color. The new work is almost completely abstract. Lang has charted a feverish course marked by variegated ribbons running circuits throughout his canvases and slanted lines carving out shallow trenches of space. Planes of green, purple, and red cause slight movements in terrain, creating the dizzying vision of an impossibly florid landscape. One is distressed yet compelled by a multiplicity of beautiful pieces and fragments, all demanding attention at the same time.

This blend of seduction and irritation has always been Lang’s strong suit. He has spent most of the past five years as a pioneer of the mini-boom taking place in Los Angeles’ downtown artists’ district. Lang is best known for his beautiful but deadly handheld “weapons,” made of spikey, painted, throwaway materials. These evolved out of a genuine need to defend himself and out of the desire to embellish, the second impulse gradually overwhelming the first. The aggressive edge of his work continues to mask his lush if somewhat frantic estheticism.

Lang’s new paintings have the tenor of maturity, but they are still irritating, busy, full of too many good ideas in need of editing. Nevertheless, they begin to make sense, and to do so without betraying his essential vision—that of an earthly paradise gone seductively awry. He is anything but a classicist—symmetry, order, and clarity are sorely abused here—yet Lang’s serious, workmanlike attitude may well afford him the possibility of a long and distinguished career. The work, for all its frantic demeanor, is considered, possessed of an aberrant but very real sense of structure. It succeeds on its own terms and takes responsibility for defining them. Individual passages and pictorial phrases are lyrical, even tender. Lang’s individuality is beginning to assert itself. In place of the talented tough guy we are discovering the impassioned esthete.

Susan C. Larsen