Los Angeles

Bart Exposito

Daniel Weinberg Gallery

Abstract but with glancing references to new technology ad modular design, Bart Exposito’s paintings demonstrate that the hard-edge vernacular has always resonated with the concept of futurity, even the futuristic (which despite its promise of what-has-not-yet-been paradoxically conveys a groovy sci-fi anachronism—Lost in Space meets Esquivel, as in Tracy Morgan’s brilliant Saturday Night Live Astronaut Jones skit). When Exposito’s works succeed, they create dynamic virtual movement and interrogate all aspects of the picture plane, especially the edges. When they fail—as almost all the drawings and many of the paintings do—the result is just graphic design, the kind of stylization that appears on album covers for electronics groups. Take BME 75 (all works 2002), which presents interlocking C-shaped forms in stark white, hot red, and silvery blue; a sharky ivory is used between the white and red, but rather than create mace it merely cements the Cs into a logo. Almost smugly centered on its square canvas, the image never questions its own formalization or challenges the viewer’s point of view.

Compare BME 75’s lazy straightforwardness with the puzzling energy of BME 78 or BME 76. It’s like going from chisenbop to algebra—though the paintings remain simple. Exposito’s winning palette of sky blues, desert greens, and Tupperware pinks and keen deployment of black line already earn a connection to John Wesley, who likewise achieves his dazzling, hypnotic effects with the most parsimonious of gestures and in utter flatness. How curious and promising a project that taps the student of Hokusai to investigate space-age abstraction. (Philip Guston and Giorgio Morandi would also prove intriguing antecedents in an exploration of paint's weird negotiation of representation, abstraction, and the world they exist in.) Indeed, perhaps referentiality is something Exposito shouldn’t too quickly jettison. Unlike the other paintings in the show, BME 78 retains the representational aspect of his earlier works, which evoked television consoles and ’60s furniture. The nod to a personal-computer station only deepens the painting's rich ambivalences: what to make of the thin, speedy lines as opposed to the thick black contours of the “module” that grounds the work, or the fact that the black line along the bottom of that form is not a line at all but the shadow along the edge of the canvas.

BME 76 pushes against the boundaries of the support like Popeye, post-spinach, popping out of his shirt. Exposito’s knack for making his figures burst from the picture’s borders may seem paradoxical given his work’s neo-geo flatness, but it is in these ruptures that he develops the virtuality his paintings’ affect conveys. Similarly, in his deft use of curvilinearity the vantage often seems to shift or flip from a graphic signboard frontality to a diagrammatic pseudo-flowchart overhead view. All of which is to say that Exposito’s gaming with painting’s imaginary proves a better investigation into the possibilities of the virtual than most art that actually employs computers.

Bruce Hainley