Los Angeles

Nancy Evans

Sue Spaid Fine Art

There are several independent painters working in L.A. who do strange things and don’t give a rat’s ass about the worldwide hit parade. Or if they do, the parade never went around their block and they learned to live without it. This isn’t to say that these painter are unambitious, it’s just that they have better things to do than look over their shoulders for applause and cuddles, winking knowingly at last year’s model and throwing fits about their new-and-improvedness. They’re more into freaky problems in the studio, the weirdness of making marks, colors and surfaces, the intoxicating language of their medium.

Nancy Evans is most definitely one of them—a great L.A. secret. Evan has mastered a peculiar kind of normal painting. She’s made a pile of work that seems horribly conventional and dead at first glance but is in fact very beautiful, and does what so many great paintings do—confuse the crap out of you, spaz your eyes out and make your glands get all Pavlovian. The paintings go from cheerfulness to black-holey abandonment. As time wears on, her backgrounds pull out and leer, and eventually get architectural, crucifixy, and biomorphic. At least that’s the case with Flicker (all works 1993–94), in which firey-orange and yellow lava sticks line up in an orderly ceremonial formation on a matte-black surface, so luscious and soft it looks like chocolate graham crackers. The orderly grids house or hold up the colors, discipline the loose, gorey underpainting, keep them in check in a funny way. Other paintings have marks like Rorschach blots and lead one down revealing paths of psycho yak-yak.

In Foulard, Evans makes the impossible work—the aberration—a green painting. Floating on the surface or field of a dirty, dingy mint-green are grody oval clusters. The green surface is rubbed down in spots to reveal a whitish ribbing in the center and a darkened back on all four sides, which adds a remarkable amount of depth on top of which he throws watery black stains. Inside each egg shape is a batiklike pattern of reds, browns, whites, and blue-grays that appears to be set on a natural course of cell division, or of quiet optical insanity. In still other paintings, her lush eerie underpainting and abrasions, drippy curdle marks, solid reds, or blue-and-white check reek of an admirably willful practice of abstract gesture characterized by a fresh, unpredictable grace.

Even her ridiculous moves are worthwhile and semiamazing, like her plastic, waterfilled, candy-colored stanchions. These rinky-dink playthings, placed in front of every painting like circus props, bracket or protect or just add a little something extra, and are a glamorous and useful a car alarm that play the theme to the Godfather. They are disarming, comic, and genuine, which is to say, very cool.

Benjamin Weissman