Brian Mallman, Still Connected
Open Mind Art Space
By Lorraine Heitzman
Through September 29th
Brian Mallman is curious, in both senses of the word. He possesses a keen curiosity about his neighbors and all sorts of overlapping communities, and he might just be a little bit curious, himself. With an almost naïve positivity, he believes in the strength of community and wants world peace. And he believes that art is a conduit for good. How crazy is that?
His interests and accomplishments are many. Mallman founded NELAart, an art organization best known for more than ten years of successful Second Saturday Gallery Nights that encompass Northeast Los Angeles galleries in Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Elysian Valley and Lincoln Heights. He also masterminded the Play Music on The Porch Day, an event that asks residents to get together with friends on a given day and play music together, (on your porch!) that now boasts participants in seventeen countries. He has given a TEDx Talk about his philosophy towards his social practice before the term was popularized, and he makes art. All of these endeavors foster and depend upon community and that is an underlying theme in his current show, Still Connected, at Open Mind Art Space.
Mallman’s studio practice is focused on drawings, and this body of work is no exception. The thirteen graphite drawings on wood panels are of fingers in all sorts of configurations. Each drawing is delicately and meticulously rendered while maintaining a minimalist and surreal approach. Fingers and hands, both realistically represented and impossibly truncated and mutated, are depicted interacting with each other. Strings bind, pull and connect them in an elaborate cat’s cradle game. There is an oddly tangible quality to the fingers and their activities; they strive, search, intertwine and reach out towards one another, personifying our humanity. Although Mallman creates knotty, messy entanglements, they are nevertheless gentle and somewhat didactic, like diagrams for an instruction manual.
Although these drawings are a continuation of a previous series, the artist made them in response to the political events provoked by this year’s inauguration. A trip to Death Valley changed his perspective. While meeting people from around the world, all reveling in the natural beauty of our country, a paradigm shift occurred and Mallman’s outlook changed to a more hopeful state. These drawings address his feeling that despite the damage inflicted from current affairs, our collective humanity outweighs temporary politics.
The sentiments behind Mallman’s work are undoubtedly sincere and his visual language is an apt metaphor to communicate his ideals, however the imagery suffers from a coolness that depletes their emotional effect. Previous series seem more grounded and concrete with a tonal range that is lacking in Still Connected. These works might benefit from a more physical presence but in these times it is heartening to find work that is hopeful and Mallman’s efforts deserve acknowledgement and be given consideration.
Still Connected continues through September 29, 2017 at Open Mind Art Space
11631 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025