Holly Tempo and Loren Holland at Launch LA

Holly Tempo at Launch LA. Photo credit: Genie Davis.

Holly Tempo and Loren Holland at Launch LA

Through June 16

By Genie Davis

Launch Gallery has a penchant for pairing exciting solo shows, and the current exhibition, running through June 16th, is no exception. Loren Holland and Holly Tempo offer two distinctive shows, each fresh and beautiful.

Loren Holland’s Bittersweet Harmony is a fusion of myths, fairy tales, gothic literature, and the occult. Each painting doesn’t just tell a story, it creates the story. Her figurative works are absorbing and intricate, leaving viewers to study the meaning behind the tales she tells.

Holland’s “The Shadow Queen” exemplifies all aspects of these works. Here is a woman, discreetly clad in only red and white stockings, sitting in a lush, mossy, fecund section of a forest that behind her seemed denuded of color, bare trees in twisted, ominous shapes, a low creeping fog masking the greens of the ground cover. To her left, a chess board, to her right, a Ouija board. This is the game of life and she may rule it or she may have ruled, but either way, she is alone and primarily naked, making choices, contemplating a move.

With “The Bathers,” Holland re-defines classic paintings like Renoir’s of nymph-like, lovely women bathing. Here her beautiful duo are two women of color, flowers in their hair, but instead of basking in their wooded pond, they are being stalked by the silhouette of a man. Presented as a triptych, the work features the women recognizing someone is watching, ducking away from the stalker, and an empty section of the lily-pad strewn pond in which they’re bathing. It is only in that final section that we see the outline of the man. In the water floats the detritus of man: an empty Sprite bottle, a game controller; as well as a ripe melon, sliced open, a symbolic threat to their ripe sexuality. These are beautiful, detailed, fascinating works. The duality of beauty and decay is frequently a part of her series here, a series that exudes both tension and passion; going beyond the stories she depicts, delving below the surface into the realms of perception, representation, control and the lack thereof.

Tempo’s “Of Unknown Value” is a series of abstract works that represent and re-inform urban LA images such as graffiti, buildings, fences, power-lines, and discarded objects. Working with pinks, blues, tangerine, and gold as her primary color palette, she creates a definitively Los Angeles landscape, a city whose terrain is both harsh and glowing with light. Take “RIP Javier,” in which images of graffiti, wire fencing, and a splotched wall are conjoined. Red and black with red x’s, a blob of gold leaf, a background of hot pink fused with salmon. The colors themselves are LA, the references to gang life, to disrepair, to the inner light of humanity in the face of an unfeeling city all coalesce. Working in acrylic, spray paint, and gold leaf, the mediums she uses themselves seem to represent the city.

Her “X” symbol is present in many works, and can be viewed as an unuttered reference to a gang tag or as an unknown mathematic quantity – symbolic in either case as a stand-in for the question of survival for both the city and its inhabitants. As beautiful and bright as her abstracts are, they are also fraught; circles of blue paint with drips moving down from them could be bullet holes, and the paint could be blood. The lush gold square on one canvas could represent the richness of gentrification, while the many small x’s surrounding it could be the rest of us, out there, in danger of being subsumed.

Both shows are on view until June 16th, and their grace, beauty, and underlying evocations ache to be seen.

170 S. La Brea Ave., Upstairs
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Thursday – Saturday 12 – 6pm


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