With titles like Church, Follow The Light and They Know Why They’re There, Antonio Adriano Puleo seems to suggest that his latest paintings and sculptures deal in a relationship with spirituality, which is both searching and sardonic. But the titles only reiterate, in a play of specificity and vagueness, what is evident in the works, which mix surface treatments, patterning, design programs and painterly effects variously reminiscent of stained-glass windows, Baroque and Romantic luminism, illuminated manuscripts, color field painting, and geometric abstraction. Relying heavily on triangles and diagonals, as well as mostly horizontal bands and stripes — with occasional curvilinear elements — Puleo’s works seem as much engineered as composed, built from the bottom up, giving structure to color relationships, and framing pockets of atmospheric space. Aspiring to the fusion of painting, sculpture and architecture familiar in church settings, Puleo plays against the autonomy of the rectangular painting as portable object, and instead fills the first solo show in Cherry and Martin’s new Culver City space with works that suggest architectural fragments: a round canvas aping a cathedral’s rose window; or with smaller canvases hung within, and integrated into, larger murals painted directly on the gallery walls. Intricate in their hard-edged, mostly symmetrical, geometric compositions, and accented by birds clipped from Audubon illustrations, Puleo’s works pit woodgrain and Day-Glo against gold leaf, actual stained glass, and washy watercolor on paper collaged onto his canvases, in what ultimately appears less a revisiting of spirituality per se than a remix of the codes by which the spiritual has been implied in art across centuries. Knowingly, they invert art’s tradition of attempting to give image to the ineffable into an exercise in our capacity to imagine something more in the presence of the nonobjective. Arches, obelisks, mandalas, and facelike emblems emerge from the patterning. But perhaps most compelling, ultimately, is not how these works play, and play with us but what they pull off along the way. In pursuit of a spirituality he seems unable, in good faith, to really plumb, Puleo generates compositions that become metaphors for a kind of ecstatic interconnectivity.
CHERRY AND MARTIN: 2712 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., through June 27. (310) 559-0100 or www.cherryandmartin.com.