Los Angeles

Ginny Bishton

Richard Telles Fine Art

In her first solo show at Richard Telles Fine Art, fifteen years ago, Ginny Bishton presented a band of twelve hundred small black-andwhite contact photos, wrapping around the gallery, of herself in a kitchen mixing bread dough. Not unlike Martha Rosler’s canonical 1975 video Semiotics of the Kitchen—in which the gendered codes of a television cooking show stand in as analogues for artmaking—Bishton’s untitled bread-baking piece represented a complex mixing of art and (mediated) life, albeit one without didactic narration. Such obsessive, daily devotion to process—of making food and making art—continues to feed Bishton’s work in a variety of media.

In her recent show, her sixth at this gallery, the Los Angeles–based artist cultivated familiar gestures and tactics from her own accumulated history. Three photocollage works (all works 2009) augmented Bishton’s series of geometric abstractions, ongoing since 2006, with each work incorporating hundreds of discrete circles to produce a delirious whole. Each circle is an overhead photograph of homemade vegetable soup in a glass bowl that reflects the color—ranging from pumpkin orange to pea green to decidedly un_soup_like blues—of the broth, providing each unit with a consistent outlining ring. In the largest of these, De nada (red, pink, blue), six slightly overlapping indigo circles appear to float over a red and pink field in a woozy illusion of shallow relief. The repetitive preparatory process of making soup recalls Bishton’s baking, but the blended colors also suggest mixed paint.

Three similarly labor-intensive untitled pen-and-ink drawings call to mind an earlier series of gestural paintings but instead position drawing as the main event. What first appear as collages comprising rectangular strips of purple paper reveal themselves as fastidiously drawn cross hatching with four colors of ink (without the aid of a ruler, I’m told), each color dedicated to a specific direction of mark-making within each unit. While many of Bishton’s works suggest a systematic approach, the self-imposed “rules” are never fully legible. But the viewer is hardly deprived: These mesmerizing works on paper draw equally, with ideological indifference, on conceptual tactics (Sol LeWitt’s, most explicitly) and old-fashioned optical wizardry (trompe l’oeil, for example), here approximating the physicality of layered paper.

Bishton’s return to origins also manifests in a trio of tributes to some of her forebears. In Meager Harvest; Triumph, Bishton updates one of LeWitt’s archetypal “Four Square Composite” grids of dense, crosshatching marker lines by embedding silhouettes of pea pods—each unique—providing an unexpectedly organic foil to the orderly, rational grid. Nauman’s Knees, a delicate pencil drawing, pays homage to Bruce Nauman’s columnar sculpture Six Inches of My Knee Extended to Six Feet, 1967, but diverges quickly from the original: The vertical drawing, evoking a ladder seen from a few feet away, reveals a baroque abundance of detail up close—namely, studious contours of fresh-picked garden vegetables arranged at the artist’s feet, with Bishton’s tiny toes repeatedly visible, pointing to the edges of her source photographs.

Still, the most satisfying homage is Im Gedenken an Hanne Darboven (In Memory of Hanne Darboven), which employs the late artist’s signature looping, systematized handwriting to encode the years of the artist’s birth and death (1941 and 2009). The script emerges from negative space rendered throughout two obituaries that Bishton copied by hand onto graph paper before negating them with insistent, Darboven-style strike-throughs and slashes. Such references to other artists often result in trite parodies or thinly disguised attempts to pander. Bishton’s tributes, on the other hand, succeed in staying true to her own ongoing concerns while also acknowledging the idiosyncratic nature of her heroes. Her meticulous works celebrate the routine pleasures of art and life, inevitably intertwined, with an elegantly idiosyncratic approach all her own.

Michael Ned Holte