Summer Formal Invites
La Loma Projects, Pasadena
through September 8
Written by Lorraine Heitzman
Like some other alternative galleries around Los Angeles, La Loma Projects operates discreetly under the cover of a conventional garage; this one hides in plain sight in a leafy residential neighborhood of Pasadena. Kirk Nelson debuted La Loma Projects at his home this past April; Summer Formal is his second exhibit. On a recent Sunday only a steady stream of visitors betrayed the real purpose of the converted space, but the sense of discovery one feels when stepping over the threshold into the white cube is part of the experience. Nelson, who earned his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, took a circuitous route to his newest endeavor after writing, directing and producing films. As this exhibit confirms, he is quickly establishing a reputation for mounting impressive shows.
Summer Formal, with Hayley Barker, Jason David, and Nancy Ford is a show that coalesces around texture, mark making and colors, inadvertently expressing a casual optimism that complements the season. Hayley Barker’s two paintings, Bathers 1 and Bathers 2 are virtuoso examples of wildly active but ultimately controlled mark making. Almost completely abstract, her paintings hover between constructed and deconstructed images. They suggest idyll landscapes, but leave one consumed by the highly energetic force field that almost overwhelms them. Eventually your eyes settle into the frenetic network of lines, shapes and colors to find the figures within the overgrowth. Like a psychedelic vision, the paintings dissolve boundaries of self and surroundings, yet Barker manages to create a unified experience. She demonstrates a masterful control over her work, harnessing the variety of her painting strokes and an ambitious color palette. Barker, an artist to watch, sets a high mark with these two exciting paintings.
Jason David’s unfussy and oftentimes funny wood sculptures are scattered throughout the gallery, garden and also within the annex upstairs. All of his work retains the rawness of the materials through his purposefully crude technique that emphasizes the shapes and physical properties of the wood over slick techniques. They retain a delightful freshness, even when he tackles the traditional form of a totem. Downstairs, Green Totem and The Big Prick look great amongst the wall art; their coloration and dimensionality come to life in juxtaposition with Haley and Ford’s paintings. The Green Totem is a series of stacked organic shapes alternated with rough, horizontal slabs. Uneven color gives off a worn appearance and nicely accentuates the forms, but a better example of his work is The Big Prick. As the name implies, The Big Prick references a human figure like a comical, well-endowed Popeye character come to life. It is a muscular sculpture with great, contained energy, its carving accentuated and exposed to read like crosshatching. Upstairs, David has a smaller, two-handled sculpture entitled Love Handles as well as an installation on the patio that looks either like a chaise lounge or a reclining figure, or both. Both show his range and humor, and fare better than his outdoor sculptures that get a little lost in the environment.
Nancy Ford’s work in Summer Formal includes a bold sewn fabric collage, delicate drawings made with colored pencils, crayons and oil pastels, and several floral paintings. The commonalities between her artworks in different media are somewhat illusive, but they show her range from geometric abstractions to lyrical plant forms and high-contrast, expressionist flowers.
The most striking of Ford’s work is Land Loping 2, the hanging textile that confronts you as you enter the gallery. On a 4’x 4’ neutral field, Ford has sewn narrow strips of colored fabrics into a painting. She accentuates the frayed edges of the remnants and keeps the loose threads visible, lessening the formal, hard-edged quality of the design. Overlapping and contrasting colors convincingly add depth and movement. Not a quilt, nor a traditional collage, Land Loping 2 makes a great impact between these genres and leaves you wishing for more.
La Loma Projects will be hosting a closing reception on September 8th. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit this new gallery yet, Summer Formal is a great reason to stop by.