Even with all the clusters of galleries around town, how often do you get to park your car once and see two impressive shows? You can right now in West Hollywood, where two of the strongest practitioners in their respective fields explore their quieter sides, boldly.
At Regen Projects on Almont, Liz Larner offers up a collection of modestly scaled sculptures. Among them is a pair of interlocking rectilinear cubic forms — yet another of Larner's explorations of interlocked objects with volume defined by line — but while others have often had a more soft and organic appearance, this one, fabricated of painted aluminum tubing, has a precision and striking clarity about it that makes it seem both unexpected and familiar in Larner's oeuvre. It's evidence of the artist's ongoing curiosity about how subtle shifts in approach to similar forms can yield compellingly nuanced results, as with the humorous Smile (After Dark). A work in porcelain, epoxy and ink, Smile is something of a remake of a 2005 work — a faceted form suggesting the glimmer of a smile rendered crystalline and absurdly oversized as a three-dimensional sculpture, here blackened by darkness, but nonetheless shiny. Think dark-matter bling. Also present is a wall-hung bronze, suggestive of a valentine heart rendered organic and palpable in a way that would be almost sweetly romantic were it not that it looks as if it's barnacled in a craggy crust. But the real stealers of this show are other wall works, including a large bowing form made of paper, aluminum and paint that both distorts one's sense of space and the flatness of the wall when up close, and competes for visual flatness with its own shadow when you step back. The others, variously calling up precedents by as unlikely a lineup of artists as Georgia O'Keeffe, Peter Voulkos, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and James Turrell, are forms suggestive of pansies and flower petals, in porcelain and stoneware, painted with glowing hues and hung on the wall. Some are also painted on their backsides so as to cast an aura, by way of bouncing light, on the wall surface around them. Evocative while also insistent upon tackling issues of form, space and perception, they deliver in unabashed romanticism, semiotic smarts and formal sophistication.
Shades of Rothko show themselves as well just around the corner at Regen Projects II, where Catherine Opie delivers something of a conceptual color-field chapel in 22 neatly ordered photos from her "Twelve Miles to the Horizon" series. At one end of the gallery hangs a view of the port of Busan in Korea; at the other, a view of the Port of Long Beach. Flanking them and between them, hanging on opposite walls, are views of the sunrises and sunsets, shot from the deck of a freighter, on each of 10 days during the 2009 voyage Opie took from one port to the other. Passing on the horizontal format one might expect with seascapes, Opie went vertical, centering each frame directly on the sun at the time it rises above the horizon, which resulted in photographic rectangles perfectly bisected between sea and air, and with light — whether a dot of sun, a glow from behind fog or a line beneath the clouds — emanating from the center. On occasions when the ship turned toward or away from the sun, you catch glimpses of the bow or stern in Opie's frame, but in most you simply get the neat stack of compositional components and natural elements. An idea set in motion like a machine, yet with its sights set on a boundary as empirically definable as it is sublimely ineffable, while passing (and linking) between two continents and two countries, Opie's opus is an almost-classical conceptual project and photographic essay in one, infused with equal doses of the romantic and the interrogative.
REGEN PROJECTS: 633 N. Almont Dr., W. Hlywd.; Regen Projects II, 9016 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 10-6, both exhibitions through May 22. (310) 276-5424, regenprojects.com.