Based upon the geometric system of one of his recent vacuum-formed wall installations, Jim Isermann’s new works in acrylic latex on canvas are from the first body of paintings the Palm Springs–based artist has produced in 20 years, as his interests in overlaps between art and design, form and function, hand-making and mass production, and a creative practice bound to systems-based approaches to design and crafting have taken him on a career-journey through handmade woven rugs, fabric-covered sculptural cubes, vinyl-patterned wall murals, stained-glass windows and modular wall reliefs, most visible locally in his exterior renovation of the MTA Customer Center at Wilshire and La Brea. His canvases on view at Richard Telles each measure 4 by 4 feet — two of them hung as squares, and two hung like diamonds on the wall. Gems they are indeed, with their appearances initially suggesting rippled, faceted patchwork quilts. They have a relation to Op Art, and one might be tempted to reduce them to a kind of neo-Op, but Isermann is much more a designer than an effects guy. His work is rooted in an integration between composition and substrate of the sort one finds in Frank Stella’s work, and a grounding in color theory that links him to the likes of Elsworth Kelly and Josef Albers. In one painting, a composition seeming something like a checkerboard warping and compressing in the middle turns out to be the product of pure, straight-edge geometry, with not a curved line or a hint of shading to be found, and what one senses as an almost shape-shifting asymmetry turns out to be the result of carefully deployed color combinations in an otherwise modular layout that, measure for measure, line by line, is perfectly symmetrical. Another work begins by simply dividing the square composition into rectangles of differing proportions, all running parallel to the diagonals of the square canvas. By then running diagonal stripes within each rectangle, Isermann arrives at unexpected perpendiculars, as well as progressions of arrow-straight lines that add up to arcs seemingly out of nowhere. Often colorful, overtly playful and unabashedly dashing, Isermann’s broader project tempts a dismissal of it as lite, but there’s an undeniable complexity and rigor to the practice, as made explicit here.
Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m., through May 16. (323) 965-5578 or www.tellesfineart.com.