Los Angeles

Clare Grill, Driftwood, 2013, oil on linen, 14 x 12". Installation view.

Clare Grill, Driftwood, 2013, oil on linen, 14 x 12". Installation view.

Clare Grill

Reserve Ames

Clare Grill, Driftwood, 2013, oil on linen, 14 x 12". Installation view.

Imagine a gracious Craftsman house, turn-of-the-century floral wallpaper and wainscoting proudly intact. Now imagine a ramshackle shed in the backyard, a weathered lean-to musty from years of neglect. This is Reserve Ames, a new gallery that occupies several first-floor interior spaces as well as the outbuilding, where its inaugural show took place. Inside the house, the projecting lip of that wainscoting supported hand-size, ceramic disk reliefs made by Benjamin Echeverria, the home’s artist resident as well as the gallery’s curator. Nearby, the laundry room was hung with monochromes that Echeverria incised to reveal the supporting armature: not just the slender wooden stretcher but also the wall behind. While the outdoor structure functions as the primary exhibition venue, the main building lends itself to such careful installations, which foreground and enliven the antiquated domestic architecture as a complement to the exhibition program. Given this context, the choice of Clare Grill for the inaugural show was genius. Grill’s work has incorporated family photographs and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century embroidery samplers produced by young girls; more recently, such nostalgic articles have abetted the production of marks that stray ever further from their origins, redoubling the loss over time of the source material itself.

Grill had never seen Reserve Ames, or thought much about the LA riot–impacted landscape of its West Adams neighborhood—so specific to Echeverria’s conception of retrieval—when she arrived in Los Angeles with a suitcase of paintings. This makes the appositeness of her work to the environment, and the sympathy between her and Echeverria, all the more striking. The former shed, not so much renovated as vitally reclaimed, bears ample residue of the past. Grill hung Crystal, 2013, over the rubble of construction and other materials stockpiled in a back chamber, partially visible behind a built “gallery-grade” wall, itself decorously left vacant. Delicately scrawled notations on the boards just inside the main entrance appear to be part numbers and maintenance records for American cars from yesteryear. Accumulated across the gallery’s skin, such incidents asserted themselves in direct relation to Grill’s canvases, which uncannily became coincident with them, as in the case of Tear, 2013, adjacent to the auto records, in which a whitewash cover did not so much obscure as accentuate the pattern beneath.

So, too, did Driftwood, 2013, pick up the strong but imperfect verticality of the planks on which it was hung, planks that no longer quite abut (resulting in sun-dappled effects on this and other surfaces over the course of the day). And the triangular figure twice emphasized—as deep-blue form and its faintly traced shadow—in Fan, 2013, likewise echoed triangular shapes scorched in the wood just above the painting. Perhaps this resonance was most pronounced in Bitten, 2013, a horizontal work with strokes radiating from a central orb, which Grill situated a little above a shelf containing feathers, nuts and bolts, and other bits of detritus that Echeverria had left as he found them. Like the other canvases, this diminutive painting evidences a tremendous sense of internal scale, generated by the energies that persist despite Grill’s layering and effacement of her own marks. In this way, these paintings are willful, Janus-faced objects. Slip, 2011, offers two circles, one sliding horizontally past the other. The two circles could well be on the way to total overlap, effectively closing the portal (and hence the residual illusionism suggested in the compositional conceit of seeing behind or through the obdurate stuff), or the obverse, widening the gap between. Irresolution seemed very much the point, seeing as the virtue of this work was to be found in its many contingencies.

Suzanne Hudson