On view at David Kordansky through July 2

David Altmejd, The Enlightenment of the Witch, 2021, The Enlightenment of the Witch, David Kordansky Gallery; Photo credit Lee Thompson Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery
David Altmejd, The Enlightenment of the Witch, 2021, The Enlightenment of the Witch, David Kordansky Gallery;
Photo credit Lee Thompson Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery

Layered mysterious Paintings and Sculpture

David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
through July 2

Written by Genie Davis
Through July 2nd at David Kordansky Gallery in mid-city, two solo shows and one group collection each offer unique, sculptural imaging and paintings that are as mysterious as they are engaging.

David Almejd’s The Enlightenment of the Witch is a grouping of ten sculptural figures spread throughout four gallery rooms. Focusing on face, hands, and chest, or with some images, faces alone, the works appear to shape mutant hybrid-humans that transform the viewer as much as they themselves appear in the process of transformation.

Some works involve crystals, suggesting humans mutating into geologic forms, others technology. They are alien and accessible, both frightening and relatable, familiar and surreal. The works can be viewed collectively as exploring the intersection of earth, invention, and humanity, and man’s influence on these other aspects of contemporary or futuristic life, and their influence on him. Or the viewer can play witness to a mystical, metaphysical experience.

With multi-colored hands splayed over a broken face, the first sculpture in the exhibition is “Matter,” shaped from expandable foam, epoxy clay, resin, wood, acrylic paint, and steel. The figure seems to be contemplating the impossibility and necessity of change. The physical composition of each work, as well as the subject explored, becomes more complex as the viewer moves forward throughout the exhibition. In the next room, “C.C. (Rising)” adds a rather astonishing encrustation to the bust, adding quartz pieces and glitter to the sculptural mix. There is a man become unicorn; a troll; and perhaps my favorite work, the blue-faced, android-like “Splitting Smurf.”

They are mythical and multi-colored, transforming over the course of each room, perhaps representing the reluctant sacrifice of the most recognizable human figure in evolution from contemporary man to something “other.” The final figure in the series, sharing the exhibition’s title, is of a witch giving birth, the baby’s head just beginning to crown between splayed legs. This conclusive work leads the viewer to question just what is evolving here: spirit, imagination, magic, curse or enlightenment? The piece incorporates diverse elements including glass eyes, glass rhinestones, hair, wire, thread, pencil, marker, plastic, screws, and Plexiglas with the other sculptural materials used throughout the works. It has an aspect of intense ritual, with highly spiritual overtones.

Each piece radiates an intensity that is its own personality, its own life-form, revealing a sense of intelligence, anguish, transcendence, and overall, the power of change and the tension between stasis and growth. Almejd has created a strange visual fairytale, a waking dream, and a spiritual hypothesis as to what makes a person – or a witch – live up to the highest potential or greatest capability for adaptation, surrender and ultimate resurrection.

Occupying the other main gallery space is the work of Sam Gilliam’s Moving West Again. Large scale paintings are layered, thick, and utilize sculptural forms in materials such as aluminum granules. Overwhelmingly thick and pale in palette, the viewer who looks closely will explore an entire world of barely apparent images, as if landscapes were viewed through a snowstorm or blowing sand. The scrim of abstraction creates an immersive viewing appearance not unlike staring into the white static of an analog television with no connection to a broadcast station.

Sam Gilliam, Into the Night, 2021, Moving West Again, David Kordansky Gallery; Photo credit Jeff McLane Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery
Sam Gilliam, Into the Night, 2021, Moving West Again, David Kordansky Gallery;
Photo credit Jeff McLane Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery

“Sweetheart” is one of the smaller pieces, smaller being relative in this series of vast works, and incorporates both aluminum granules and sawdust within its highly tactile surface. One can find animals and human forms, flowers, clouds, bridges and buildings within. It seems to evoke a distant memory of time spent with a loved one. “Turtle” includes one outstanding burst of vibrant blue that resembles an emerging form of a turtle. The vast 96” x 240” x 4” work “Into the Night” employs acrylic, tin shot, the aluminum granules present throughout this series, copper chop, wood, socks, paper, fabric, sawdust and wax. It is a work of geometric forms and half-glimpsed faces, denizens of the street, barely seen but always watching.

The layered whiteness of these canvases just barely conceals a wide and vibrating range of colors beneath it that makes each piece seemingly reach beyond the wall on which they are hung to literally and figuratively pull the viewer inside Gilliam’s perspective. The textured images wrap around the edges and sides of the canvases. The works are so richly dimensional as to create a sensation of a visual “hum” arising from within them; the artist’s abstract expressionism has a transformative quality quite different than that of Almejd, but equally potent and fertile.

Dense and dream-like, Gilliam creates works that resonate with the idea of time and place while specifying neither. To view them is to be lost within the stars of an unknown universe within which multiple points of semi-obscured, colorful light glow for those of careful eye.

In an adjacent gallery space, place and time are very specific indeed. Here a series of 40 works makes up the group show The Beatitudes of Malibu. Displayed in salon style, the works offer varied and interesting views that evoke the Southern California landscape, whether realistic, full color depictions of flora and fauna, animal and vista, or through abstract interpretations. The title arises from a poem by Rowan Ricardo Phillips that takes on a variety of interactions within greater Los Angeles.

Exhibiting artists include Sayre Gomez, Jennifer Guidi, Angel Otero, Hilary Pecis, Mary Weatherford, and Jonas Wood; historical works from Milton Avery, Charles Burchfield, Jane Freilicher, Miyoko Ito, Helen Lundeberg, Agnes Martin, and Alma Thomas; and works by Huma Bhabha, Lauren Halsey, and Sky Hopinka. Viewers can also read a collection of poems in a complimentary bound-booklet from writers Gabriela Jauregui, Bob Kaufman, Ann Lauterbach, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Cedar Sigo.

Paintings, mixed media, and drawings are a mix of those steeped in realism and other that are hyper-impressionistic. They vary from predominantly current works to those created as early as 1930. The most sculptural form, from Halsey, is “may we bang you,” a fantastical series of scenes emerging from white rock caves shaped of white cement, wood, and other mixed media. Also quite dimensionally striking is the use of neon in Weatherford’s deep sea and anchor abstract “Dolphin Charter.” On the historic side, Sheets’ fully representational “California Redwoods” dazzles in its simplicity and line.

Each of the works is linked together by both the geographic landscape and a more metaphorical one, by history, memory, and a locale that manifests itself through the human spirit as much as in any topographical map. Each piece has an impressive ability to collectively present a specific state of mind as much as the specific city in which they came to exist.

David Kordansky Gallery
5130 W Edgewood Pl, Los Angeles, 90019

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