Los Angeles

Pierre Picot

Jancar Gallery

By the early 1990s Pierre Picot had largely left the exhibition circuit. A Frenchman who immigrated to the US in his adolescence, studying at UCLA and then CalArts in the ’70s, he surfaced in the ’80s amid waves of New Image painting, neo-expressionism, and appropriationist practice, making a place in this environment with new-imagery mash-ups.

Recently, Picot returned to his French roots during a teaching stint at the Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art in Brittany, where, shaded by the trees of Gauguin’s Bois d’Amour, he began the series of landscapes shown at Jancar (all Untitled, five in black ink on paper, one full-color oil on canvas). Like Van Gogh, Picot varies his mark-making and brushwork from one compositional element to the next, his odd combinations of ethereality and verve, observational sensitivity and fantasist imagination evoking the electrified landscapes of the Post-Impressionists, Fauves, and Nabists. But, dually informed by forays into the woods and sketching treks across LA’s Griffith Park (both before and after 2007’s devastating brush fire), Picot constructed these works as if a graceful bricoleur engaged in a game of exquisite corpse with himself, drawing from a grab bag full of eclectic tricks—his sources spanning early modernism, westward-ho nineteenth-century American landscape painting, the Italian quattrocento, Chinese Shan Shui (as well as more abstract, gestural, and calligraphic variants of Asian ink-and-brush painting), midcentury gestural abstraction, and are reminiscent of the oddball drawing practices of H. C. Westermann or Joseph Yoakum. Colored with this sweetly ironic image play, Picot’s hodgepodges may dazzle, but they speak most loudly of the dated and characteristically hedonistic borrowing of late-twentieth-century postmodernism.

Such collective assembly was also present in a second, rear-gallery display of selections from the projected one-thousand-page and as-yet-unfinished series “Ecstatic Manifestations of the Physical Universe.” Collaborative works, the “Manifestations” are ink drawings and paintings mélanged with photocopy collages of down-low cultural fodder (think massage and escort photo ads) committed to sheets of paper barely larger than letter size. The composition appears violently slammed together, and the imagery is rawer than his landscapes, providing a curious glimpse into the artist’s serially promiscuous collaborative process—a hallmark of his ’80s roots.

In light of the collaborations, the products of Picot’s forest sojourns seem aspirational, intent on utilizing now-outmoded devices to demonstrate the contemporary potential of landscape painting. Pastiche and fragmentation are balanced by Picot’s effort to create a coherent whole; artistic inclinations are reconciled across genre and time. Viewed at once, the two bodies of work left one pining to see Picot’s landscape reveries fused with the social and collaborative dimension of the “Manifestations.”

Christopher Miles