Drawings to Contemplate During a Pandemic
ODD ARK·LA, Los Angeles
through October 17, by appointment only
By Lorraine Heitzman
In his second show at Odd Ark·LA, Brian Randolph’s exquisite drawings quietly reverberate in the gallery’s intimate and minimal space. The exacting and contemplative work invites a meditative experience through a nuanced balance of contradictory elements. Both lyrical and precise, timeless and contemporary, these harmonious and mysterious drawings demonstrate Randolph’s command of his craft through the interwoven warp and weft of his lines.
The Septum is a series of wax-based colored pencil drawings on paper mounted on wood panels. Delicate linear patterns reminiscent of ribbon candy, circuitry or knitting patterns, are laid out in symmetrical mirrored compositions. Each image is created against a backdrop of a single contrasting color that emphasizes the intricacies of the design, although much of the linework is actually the untouched paper rather than drawn marks. The initial impression is that these are digitally conceived or manipulated because they appear so cleanly articulated, but a closer inspection reveals the artist’s hand. His fastidious technique is hardly sterile, though. Agnes Martin comes to mind in their shared obsession towards process, but Randolph chooses a more decorative path than Martin’s grids. Perhaps they are more akin to Tibetan mandalas; once you slow down and become immersed in their hypnotic symmetry, their beauty is mesmerizing.
The Septum derives its title from the biological feature that divides tissue in half. Each drawing has either two separate elements made of mirrored images or a single, symmetrical image that is merged. Randolph manages to use the symmetry to his advantage, allowing the viewer to get lost in the woven lines. If these were reduced to black and white, you might imagine them to be from an arcane text alluding to systems long since forgotten. Although the studied approach seems to derive from a temperament that is decidedly slower and less flashy than today’s aesthetic,
they are not in any way nostalgic. The color palette and presentation are contemporary and it is that dichotomy that creates the tension and interest.
The artist’s previous show, The Symmetry of Separation at Odd Ark·LA in 2018, was a group of austere and intricate black and white ink drawings. In a sense, the introduction of color in his current work humanizes them, taking them out of the realm of the purely cerebral. Randolph, in the text accompanying the show, claims an interest in the body and while that may be indiscernible in an obvious way, the work in The Septum has an internal logic that feels biological, like circulatory systems, or functions that operate on the molecular level. On a larger scale he promotes a concept that is at the heart of symmetry, that the binding together of two halves can function together in unison, an idea that is a uniquely soothing balm for our time.
7101 N. Figueroa Street, Unit E, Los Angeles, 90042