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
Of the two landscape projects bracketing the Heath and “You See” exhibits, architectural photographer Benny Chan’s is the more formally elegant and serene — surprising, considering that “TRAFFIC!” consists of huge, incredibly detailed aerial depictions of gridlocked L.A. freeways shot with a purpose-built 8-by-10 camera while dangling from the side of a helicopter. I’m not convinced of the ostensible consciousness-raising purpose of the work (“Heavens, you mean rush-hour traffic in L.A. sucks?”) but the built-in compositional framework and undeniable curvilinear beauty of the interchanges paired with Chan’s technical prowess make a persuasive argument for getting your own helicopter.
PMCA’s front project room is given over to the latest version of “a never-ending painting in three dimensions” by young landscape artist (and L.A. Weekly Annual Biennial alumnus) Annie Lapin. Over the past few years, Lapin’s lushly painted montage vistas have been subjected to increasing amounts of stress, from barely discernible discontinuities in slightly quirky pastoral scenes to furious torrents of barely cohesive planar fragments rendered in garishly saturated colors. With a relatively conventional solo show at Angles under her belt, and recent paintings included in Emma Gray’s “Bitch Is the New Black” all-girl show at Honor Fraser (which also has a piece by Manuel Neri’s daughter Rudy, and a spectacular new Mindy Shapero sculpture — through August 29) and L.A. Louver’s Biannual “Rogue Wave” (also including L.A. Weekly Biennial alums Kaz Oshiro and Dianna Molzan, through September 19), Lapin takes risks on several levels with Parallel Deliria Iteration.
Reconfigured from an earlier version shown at Grand Arts in Kansas City, PDI is a site-specific, immersive representation of a landscape in a constant flux of disintegration and reassembly. Created partially from studio debris, partly in a ritualish collaborative happening, it not only abdicates the autonomy and controllability of easel painting for a process more akin to the chaotic agenda of nature but also wreaks considerable havoc on Lapin’s barely launched brand identity. Plus much of the strength of Lapin’s canvases hinges on the containment and amplification of their shredded operatic clichés — the flickering quotations from Caspar David Friedrich and Gustave Courbet, like so much debris from a turn-of-the-20th-century panorama after meeting a twister from Oz — Pandora-boxing their disintegrative forces within the confines of a rectangular, two-dimensional picture plane. And there is a degree to which the energy is dissipated in its translation into three dimensions. But Lapin is on to something. In destabilizing the pictorial coherence and amplifying the immersive theatricality of illusionistic painting, Parallel Deliria Iteration gropes for a painting practice that simultaneously exploits and undermines our culture’s deepest expectations about picture-making. Painting as arena of overacting; enter the document-shredding lion. It may not be deep-fried rock shrimp and sweet-potato dumplings with nopales salsa yet, but it’s definitely scenery worth chewing.
Edith Heath, “Tabletop Modernist”
“You See: The Early Years of the UC Davis Studio Art Faculty”
Benny Chan, “TRAFFIC!”
Annie Lapin, Parallel Deliria Iteration
At Pasadena Museum of California Art, 490 E. Union St., Pasadena; through September 20.