Los Angeles

Euan Macdonald

EUAN MACDONALD'S DRAWINGS and paintings tend to fall into a few basic categories: There's the twist on reality; the obvious but unconsidered; the unexpected occurrence; the capturing of the elusive; the answer to a what-if question. They look like sketches you might make to help explain an idea, if you were concerned enough about getting it right to put in a little extra effort. When they work, they work, and when they don't, there's dearly no saving grace. This makes it easy to separate hits from misses, and Macdonald came into this show with a pretty solid batting average.

Most of the works here (all 2000) were of the what-if variety: What if a limousine weren't just stretched, but also twisted? What if an airplane's wings went limp? I got the picture every time, but ultimately it didn't really matter one way or the other: In a culture awash in plays on objects and images, it takes a little more than a doodle of a pun to hold my attention. More compelling, or at least more curious, was Macdonald's rendering of what looked like the Michelin Man with all his tires popping at once (What if someone exploded right in front of you?). Less formulaic and more idiosyncratic, the winner of the bunch was a drawing of a reclining figure with a beam of light (fittingly rendered in glitter) either emanating from or shooting into its brain. There's the basic gist of it—now you add meaning.

Outshining the drawings, but equally spare, were Macdonald's three videos, which turn formal relationships between people and things into deadpan physical comedy and share the artist's strategy of playing a lone idea to its “logical” conclusion. Hammock Sleep imparts a certain satisfaction and sense of wonder with an event that manages to be at once ordinary and extraordinary: A hammock, in which a person calmly naps, begins to sway by virtue of some off-screen force, swinging higher and higher until eventually it completes a few 360-degree loops—with its cargo remaining ensconced, thanks to centripetal force. Meanwhile, Three Trucks documents a trio of ice-cream wagons as they face off in self-imposed gridlock in an otherwise empty Los Angeles intersection while each plays its own god-awful version of “It's a Small World.” It's one of those ideas that's so stupid nobody else was smart enough to think of it: a wry but not necessarily cynical look at phenomena from civil harmony to cosmic convergence. Another (micro)cosmic event of sorts unfolds in Eclipse, in which the frame is bisected by the arc of a large puddle's edge in a cracked, weedy patch of asphalt. A worn soccer ball floating on the surface slowly rotates as the breeze nudges it around the puddle's perimeter; along the way, the ball passes across and momentarily obscures the reflection of the sun on the water. It's a celestial model so mundane that if you weren't in the frame of mind to stop and look, you'd likely pass right by the video as quickly as you would the puddle on the street—but if you happened to notice the puddle and the event, you'd wish you could record it and play it again and again. That's more than I can say for a lot of art.

Christopher Miles