Gary Lang: GLITTERWORKS
Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles
through May 19
Written by Shana Nys Dambrot
The walls of the gallery are lined and gridded with 120 sharp and shimmering dark disco geodes. Perfectly square at 13 x 13 inches each and framed in warm and wide honey-colored wood, each one contains samples of seemingly every acrylic paint color in the studio, and enough glitter to choke a unicorn. These are works by Gary Lang, made in 2018-19 but using materials, including his own ragged, cut-up studio clothes in the place of proper canvas, that could be several decades older.
In way these studio clothes are not only the physical grounds for these exercises in Emo Zen expressionism, they are also a kind of inspiration, a bit of a process guide, and a personal allegory. Inspiring, because the fragmented, fractal, organic aesthetic is notably distinct from Lang’s best-known work with its crisp concentric perfection. Process because it is the raw energy of the subconscious gestures that get studio smocks paint-splattered which has prompted him to explore the freedom of composing this way. And, perhaps most notably, personal, emotional and allegorical — aspects of painting that we don’t usually associate with the tondos’ optically-charged formalist arias.
By using his own pigment-splattered garments, he neatly refers to the entirety of his own studio practice and history, his lifetime, his body, his time spent alone, arguing with color. Paint accumulates on those jeans and aprons like years on a calendar, memories on the brain, stalagmites on the cave floor. They go on to form the foundation, literally and figuratively, for a project which is more than a palate cleanser, but actually a direct emotional response to the existential catastrophe of a massive wildfire near his home, and the post-crisis realization that life is too short to skip its pleasures. That right there is what the glitter is all about.
Inasmuch as these GLITTERWORKS are a kind of antithesis or perhaps an antidote to the eminently instagrammable tondo paintings, these offer a different kind of preciousness, one that is sparkling and mysterious and charming, narrative and autobiographical, and about experience rather than information. The project room displays one of each — a large, breezy circular painting of 113-inch diameter, and its palette-cousin, a 13-inch square glitter painting that more than holds its own. The frames on the glitter paintings are integral, giving the works a tactile substanialty, and the regimentation serving as an armature for the splashy, dirty verve of the pigmented and refractive action, and containing the unbounded gestural energy within intimately bounded fields. Controlled chaos — maybe that’s what pleasure truly is.