Los Angeles

Lecia Dole-Recio

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

Lecia Dole-Recio’s first solo museum show lent a shimmering vitality to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s otherwise lackluster “Focus” series of solo museum debuts by emerging Southern California–based artists. In a spare, unerring display of eight recent works, the microtonal play between Dole-Recio’s core concerns (light and color in relation to transparency, translucency, and opacity) conveyed through and by her consistent use of gouache and graphite in conjunction with cardboard, paper, vellum, tape, and glue confirmed her status as one of the most discerning and inventive of abstraction’s current practitioners.

In Dole-Recio’s work, paint appears in splatters, washy gradated veils, calm swaths, and vibrantly tinted pools—often within a single piece. Crystallized rather than deconstructed, her grids have been transmuted like coal into diamond, faceted by various cuts and incisions. In one of her grandest works, Untitled, 2006, a squid-ink-black ground is enlivened by touches of hot pink and flecks of gold. Figure and ground are confused, blurred, and/or troubled to a point where the two concepts become frustrating and frustrated. What could be taken for skeletal elements shift toward the exoskeletal; shadow becomes that which casts shadow (both actual and illusionistic), “wrong” sides become “right” (i.e. “wronger”), cuts appear to connect rather than sever. This undoing—of sense, of structure, of rationalization—is accomplished through a radical saming, in which the work’s surface is eroticized by its every site being made a potential node of pleasure, nonhierarchical and immediate, as the materials’ physical othernesses are manipulated into a kind of equivalence. The show’s palette recalls summer rosés, lilacs, sunsets, and areolae; its textual counterpoint is Proustian: À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs.

In the smaller works, Dole-Recio intensifies her process by scrambling notions of whole and part. In the butterscotch sheen of another untitled work from 2006, diagonal strips of metallic-painted paper almost accrete back into the piece of paper from which they were cut, except that purple glowers from gaps between the seams, suggesting that collage is a “more” made up of what’s missing. In the other two small works, which deploy arcs and semi-circles of paper, it is as if a draftsperson has managed to physicalize rather than merely represent space-time, using little more than construction paper, scissors, glue, and a French curve. The circles and ellipses of earlier works now sometimes spiral open, abandoning the simplicity of mere inside and outside.

If a cut is the beginning of contingency, if a shadow embodies more than the thing said to cause it, if the night sky is filled with things no longer in existence—these aren’t fragments or poeticisms but the grammar, the conditions and conditionals, of a new method. Richard Tuttle once quoted Agnes Martin as saying, “If you want to understand abstraction, go to the Women.” Eschewing stabilizing reference, Dole-Recio allows abstraction to be bracingly abstract—unsolved. In her work, process reveals itself to be (paradoxically?) the fundament of illusion, the imaginary; tracking the literal materializes the improper. What is seen is not only what is seeable.

Bruce Hainley