Leyla CĂˇrdenas isn’t just another UCLA art star, she was born, raised and still lives in BogotĂˇ, and her MFA years up here only heightened the urban tropicalĂsmo that suffuses her work. The tactility of distressed surfaces — pavement, warehouse doors, the walls of shabby houses — impels CĂˇrdenas almost erotically, as if flaking paint and rusting joints provided her an ongoing narrative written by humans and rewritten by nature in an elaborate Braille palimpsest. This sensibility recurs all over contemporary art, from Cuba to Japan, but CĂˇrdenas manifests it with a peculiar and infectious intensity. She obsesses over nearly invisible detail and embarks on magnificently futile projects such as reconstructing her studio floor from cast fragments hung by filaments from the ceiling, so that they float inches from the gallery’s own floor.
Speaking of sensuous obsession, two roundups of work on paper, handily situated next door to each other, ravish us with a surfeit of draftspersonly devices. In “Block Party,” around a hundred drawings by artists famed and superunknown jostle for attention, all of them making their case by celebrating the intimacy of exquisite detail. In “Works on paper by,” a far smaller roster (13 artists, all of them emerging) affords a broader material spectrum, and also goes large and even blows the frame altogether. You’ll have your favorites in both shows, but it’s the aggregate that provides the ultimate pleasure.
Leyla CĂˇrdenas at d.e.n. contemporary, 6022 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; (310) 559-3023. “Block Party” at Daniel Weinberg, 6148 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; (323) 954-8425. “Works on paper by” at Paul Kopeikin, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; (323) 937-0765. All thru Aug. 26.