Divided Brain at Lava Projects

Installation view of Divided Brain at Lava Projects. Photo courtesy of the Gallery.

Divided Brain at Lava Projects

Curated by Brian Cooper and Colin Roberts
Through December 16th


By Eve Wood

Sometimes, as a critic, you come across a group show that hangs together so seamlessly, it knocks the breath right out of you. This is the case with “Divided Brain,” curated by Brian Cooper and Colin Roberts on view at Lava Projects. Working with the premise that the creative process and the work that derives from it, mirrors the hemispheres of the human brain – the left being concerned with the known world and how we navigate through it, and the right, a receptacle of mystery and uncertainty, these fifteen artists explore the boundaries between both these impulses.

Comprised of drawings, sculptures and paintings, the materiality of the works included here also reflect a myriad of compositional choices from the magisterial sculptural works of Ben Jackel to the lovely and ephemeral collages of Winnie Truong. Within each is a palpable tension between that which is known and understand and that which is uncontrollable, visceral and seductive. For example, Brian Cooper’s “Emergence 2,” a charcoal drawing on paper, identifies our human connection to the natural world as a man stares up at a grove of trees that appear to split open, revealing a complicated root system, i.e. a “family tree” like a living, thriving document of our fractured human history. Similarly, Wendell Gladstone’s “Tread Lightly” conflates the image of a woman’s high healed shoe with a playful seductiveness, the languishing exaggerated bodies of naked women enveloping the shoe. David Jien’s “Shakran/Murda Musik” also explores similar themes, yet his intricate drawing also pays homage to surrealism, and is at once luminous and unsettling.

Many of the works in this exhibition are profoundly intricate as with Susan Logoreci’s “Hills and Flats,” an astonishing color pencil drawing that appears almost maze-like, the landscape identified less by demarcations and more by color, shape and the sheer velocity of line, endless and seemingly unbreakable. Still, other drawings are astonishingly alive as with Robyn O’Neil’s “Invented Tropical Landscape – American Man Struggling with Lion (After Rousseau).” Here, the narrative is warped as we expect a bloodier battle, or at the very least a verifiable struggle, yet the “American Man” appears as though he is dancing with the giant, aggressive beast rather than fighting against it. It is this strange narrative inclusion that keeps us forever fascinated.

Many of the works in the show are deceptively simple in their visual content as with Greg Ito’s “Night Signals” where an eruption of red smoke from a nearby house mirrors the gray and billowing clouds that form in the night sky above it, presupposing a hyperbolic spirituality. Eric Beltz’s and Ron Rege Jr.’s line drawings operate in much the same way, exploring the intersection between a manufactured personal identity and spiritualism.

Colin Roberts’ intricate and strangely ominous drawing entitled “The Watcher” in combination with his sculpture “Flesh Monkey with Orange Head” add another layer of complexity to the exhibition as a whole. Both works suggest an ever-burgeoning darkness, either internal or physically manifested in the surrounding world wherein mechanical limbs appear to operate on their own without any human involvement, and the striated musculature of a flesh monkey glistens as he buries his fat orange head in his hands.

Erik Frydenborg’s “Equivocator” made from Poly chromed basswood is more overtly threatening. The word equivocate means to waver, yet this figure stands tall and fierce like a disillusioned alien come down for a fight. Michael Alvarez’ oddly disquieting image “Look at This Photograph,” also conflates reality with hyper reality as a family poses, their faces strangely distorted and menacing even in their apparent conviviality. Brian Robertson also utilizes familiar tropes in his acrylic on panel painting entitled “Ghost Door” wherein objects are placed in what appears to be a tableaux setting. As with Frydenborg’s work, the image is vaguely unsettling, but it is Jim Shaw’s lovely and enigmatic “Trump Wallpaper” that packs the final wallop. As viewers, we are drawn into the disorienting image only to realize we are looking at Donald Trump’s shapeshifting mug. It’s enough to make any sane person go mad!

2417 West Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA


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