Nike Schröder, Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes at Walter Maciel Gallery

 Nike Schröder, Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes at Walter Maciel Gallery

By Genie Davis

Through December 23rd

Two highly tactile and terrific shows are at Walter Maciel Gallery through December 23rd, both using unique mediums to create powerfully fresh work.

German artist Nike Schröder is now Los Angeles-based, and in BACKSPACE/DELETE she makes good use of observations in her new home. Describing her work here as a “quiet love letter” to downtown Los Angeles, she works with spray paint, fiber, graphite, acrylic, tar, and blocks of casted concrete, shaping charged landscapes that express the bustling streets of downtown and the city’s effect on the human psyche. Her own efforts to assimilate and organize her environment and to create visual stories based upon it are the root of her works here.

Nike Schröder. BACKSPACE/DELETE. Photo Courtesy of Walter Maciel Gallery.

As we observe her canvasses we can make out the shapes of buildings and the passages of alleys, we can feel the hum of the city, its chaos and its cool. The title refers to the artist’s desire to step back and observe the marks that people make on different surfaces – and on each other lives. Painting over and deleting and regaining both visual space and emotional stillness is a part of her process here. The background colors are pale, the color of an opalescent morning or that moment just after twilight as the city starts to shut down. Thin, measured lines, thick rectangles of concrete, almost ghostly grey squares create a sort of ersatz city skyline, reverential, fragmented, imperfect yet filled with wonder, exuding and reflecting the glow that makes the light of Los Angeles special, a light that once attracted early filmmakers. And indeed, there is a certain cinematic quality to Schröder’s work here.

As Schröder weaves an abstract tapestry of rope and thread against backdrops of paint, she creates what is an almost archeological surface. The viewer sees undercurrents in her work, whether these are geometric forms or fuzzy shadows. There is a gravitas to this work, a steadiness and a spiritual quality that’s heightened by the show’s installation, which uses casted concrete on walls, floor, and ceiling in the gallery.

Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes. Understory. Photo Courtesy of Walter Maciel Gallery.

Where Nike Schröder deals in a kind of weighted, subliminal calm, Understory, the installation that shares the gallery with her, creates the opposite effect. Filled with a barely contained energy, the installation by Timothy Paul Myers and Andrew Barnes recreates a suburban basement. Like a large-scale, insightful dollhouse, we view a world born of memory and imagination. In it, we see a work area, an entertainment center, and family history of preserved and discarded items. From a washing machine to a discarded crutch, to the very walls of the space, each object here is covered in felt. The material creates a dream-like, sand-colored world that seems softly frozen in time. In fact, upon first glance, the work appears to be made of shaped sand, the grainy quality of the felt has that visual call-back. At any moment, it could all collapse, subsumed by the tide of time. And perhaps that is the artists’ intent. These objects, once an intense focus of family life, have been put to rest here, old baby toys, tools, a ping-pong paddle, an ironing board, an analog television.

One only barely resists wanting to touch these objects. Schröder – although with very different work – it is the tactile nature of the art that is most surprising, illuminating, and exhilarating. Slowly, after absorbing the work, the viewer begins to note how the covering of these everyday objects also elevates them, protects and refines them, and creates a sense of playful reverence. This is not just a replica of a basement and its over-stuffed objects, this is a memorial to what these objects once meant; it is a subterranean world we are invited to dream in.

Both exhibitions shape magical moments born of the alchemy of fabric and form. Don’t miss.

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