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
Arranged on one wall in a lozenge-shaped cluster, the 54 small acrylic-on-panel paintings give an almost-innocuous first impression, even if you are aware of the source material. With their features blanked out, leaving only their distinctive period hairstyles — ranging from Farrah Fawcett to Mary Lou Retton — “Remember” possesses some of the handmade taxonomic charm of West African barbershop signs, a large part of which derives from the reclamation of mass-produced visual language into the realm of the conspicuously handcrafted.
In Arata’s case, this erasure of quotation marks takes on further, less congenial complexities as the already problematic scenario of the pictorial framing of a female countenance for possible consumer distribution (talkin’ ’bout the Gaze) collides with the actual circumstances of the creation and ultimate distribution of the source photographs, and the unsettling literalness of the subjects’ “removal.”
The removal of (non)identifying facial features from the source photos further translates conceptual motif of framing into a literal one, as the fussily rendered coiffures become ornate filigreed borders for negative spaces. You almost expect to see a little card in the middle of each, reading “Removed for Preservation.” Which is, in a sense, what Arata’s work does, channeling a new embodiment for the complex and heartbreaking contradictions of these erased identities, disincorporated victims of systems of visual representation gone very wrong, passing them through his own eye and hand, daubing at their absence with tinted unguents on discarded scraps of wood to condense into a cloud of haunting, evaporated humanity.
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects | 5795 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City | Through Dec. 23 | (323) 933-2117
Kristi Engle Gallery | 5002 York Blvd., L.A. | Through Jan. 9 | Artist talk Dec. 6, 2 p.m. | (323) 472-6237, email@example.com