An artist whose practice was forged among latter-day abstract expressionism, postminimalism’s hybrid and experimental approaches to painting, and the nascent feminist art movement(s) with the accompanying tide of bodily and domestic themes, Joan Snyder couldn’t be accused of being subtle with her imagery. Her current exhibition at SolwayJones is, shockingly, the first L.A. solo show for the MacArthur Fellow whose on-radar career has spanned from participation in biennials at the Corcoran Gallery and the Whitney Museum in the early ’70s to a 2005 retrospective at New York’s Jewish Museum and inclusion in the recent, historically significant traveling survey exhibitions Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution, and High Times Hard Times, New York Painting 1967-1975. The show is riddled with compositions bearing not-so-vaguely vaginal, woundlike puddles of viscous, transparent crimson paint containing screws and nails — phallic shrapnel that evokes improvised explosive devices and both literalizes and toys with the varied connotations of the slang “getting nailed” and “screwing.” But such play between the literal and the literary, between images and objects that tap into both a physicality we know in our bodies and a ricochet of language we know in our minds, is pure Snyder; she deals in confrontational materiality and weaves in imagery and language, often scrawled on her raw-feeling canvases, to unsettling yet engaging ends. The word “RAW” turns up in a canvas here, mirroring — as “REDRUM” mirrored “MURDER” in The Shining — “WAR” on the opposite side of the composition, centered upon fleshy orbs of paint. It speaks for this whole exhibition of works that try to address our relations to our bodies, ourselves, each other and our earth. Such works succeed without the Neo-Expressionist posturing that Snyder, coming up in a different era and with little to lose, had no use for, and without the heroics that she knew from the get-go were largely denied her by the culture, her being a her. Instead, she sticks with raw — nobly, and often profoundly.
SolwayJones Gallery, 990 N. Hill St., No. 180, L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., through April 11. (323) 223-0224 or www.solwayjonesgallery.com.