Still, I liked her MOCA show better than I expected. A handful of Owens’ works — mostly those uncluttered by grrrlish whimsy — go far enough in their dumb, obnoxious monumentality to compete on their own terms. The untitled 1996 seascape with drop-shadowed seagulls has an enormous, unearned presence, as does the 12-foot upside-down bleached-out Automatist doodle in the last gallery. There are a few other surprises. They may be accidents, or there may actually be an artist struggling to emerge from within Laura Owens. We won’t know unless she stops playing daddy’s girl to a bitter, nostalgic, tenured generation that still wants to think it’s rebelling. Christ, even Lawrence Kasdan got over it.
Thankfully, one doesn’t have to look far to find painters continuing to operate outside the quotation marks. At L.A. Louver, R.B. Kitaj’s elegiac but buoyant Los Angeles Pictures — exploring the lingering erotic presence of the artist’s late wife — are models of accomplished visual economy and actual, pre-post-ironic sincerity. Up the beach at Angles, the two central works in Kelly McLane’s second solo show push her already fragmented landscapes to new levels of fracture, as swarms of locusts seem to devour swaths of the picture plane, leaving a surface flickering with the struggles of its own making. Awesome.
If you’re downtown, swing by POST to see a small group of fast-and-furious abstractions by Linda Day — intricate stripe paintings that are saturated with the spectrum and perceptual idiosyncrasies of the Southern California landscape — and a larger group of abstract paintings she assembled into a group show called “a(KIN).” Among these are a couple of new, Feitelsonesque works by Nancy Evans — certainly one of the most underrated painters in L.A. Strong and surprising works by Lynne Berman, Hector Romero, Marie Thibeault and several others (all of whom happen to be friends of Day’s) show just how many artists are capable of looking at visual art — from Lorser Feitelson to Laura Owens and everything beyond and between — as a sensory continuum in which to operate instead of a set of theories to define yourself against. It’s not High Godawfulism, but it’s better than nothing.
LORSER FEITELSON | at LOUIS STERN FINE ARTS, 9002 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (310) 276-0147 | Through
LAURA OWENS| at MOCA, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 626-6222 | Through June 22
KELLY McLANE| at ANGLES GALLERY, 2230 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-5019 | Through June 14
LINDA DAY| at POST, 1904 E. Seventh Place, Los Angeles, (213) 622-8580 | Through June 28