By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
ACROSS THE WAY AT PATRICK PAINTER, JIM Shaw offers up an equally compelling, if significantly more self-conscious take on the conflation of abstract painting, popular culture and mystical religions with "Kill Your Darlings," an uncharacteristically uniform group of paintings on view through Saturday. The latest in Shaw's exhibits based on the newly discovered (read: invented) Mormonesque religion of "O-ism," these nine large canvases purport to be posters — sans text — for O-ist feature films from the mid- to late 20th century. Consequently, most of the picture is left "empty" for the later insertion of title, credits, etc., while the main imagery in each consists of a vertical or horizontal row of three or four disembodied heads meant to represent figures from O-ist history or mythology. The catch is that the "empty" space is in fact filled with faux abstract-expressionist painting — and it's surprisingly accomplished at that.
When contemporary artists want to ridicule (or just reference) previous art-historical moments, it often serves only to expose their own ignorance or incompetence. In Shaw's case, the work is utterly convincing, with frequent passages of great gestural facility and subtle coloration. Which makes their fictional degradation all the more poignant. One doesn't really need to know the details of the O-ists' long and ongoing struggle with the blasphemy of representational art to appreciate the tension in these works. In fact, they bear a striking similarity to Shaw's undergraduate work from the early '70s, in which repainted fragments of pop-culture images float in a murky ab-ex miasma. Shaw often uses elaborate narratives — his own dreams, the biography of the fictional teen Billy, and now O-ism — as an invisible structural component to his work.
As with Jensen, these complex justifications may be reasonably considered to be the actual site of creative activity. But these particular works, simultaneously rooted in the period of art historical crisis during which Shaw's approach developed (and Jensen's gained recognition) point up the oversimplification of such a solution. We've had 30 years of postmodernism, but it remains the largely undigested challenges of modernism — not the least being the tension between form and content and the question of "Why bother?" — that make art worth looking at, and continue to provide excuses for making it.
ALFRED JENSEN: CONCORDANCE | Santa Monica Museum of Art Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave. | Through April 19
JIM SHAW: KILL YOUR DARLINGS | Patrick Painter | Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica | Through February 8