Lanky, dreadlocked and usually laughing about something, the Australian skater and street artist formerly known as Kill Pixie, Mark Whalen, may not seem to have much in common with, say, medieval monks who painstakingly illuminated religious manuscripts, or the calligraphers and miniaturists of old-world Asian dynasties. Until, that is, you envision the almost devotional process of making his obsessively rendered compositions: sequestered in the workroom, bent down close to the table, wielding single-hair brushes with superhuman precision, executing surreal scenes in quasi-architectural spaces, within which androgynous figures perform inscrutable rituals of play and prayer. Whalen executes magical op-art geometry, tight patterns of tiled grids, and carefully contained elements of nature with urgent and patient finesse, crispness and delicacy, yet the narratives remain elusive. The new paintings (and experiments with ceramics) for Stranded are darker and more psychedelic compared with the Zenlike reserve and simplicity of previous work. There are curveballs, too, with passages of painterly and expressive abstraction allowed to intrude into the proceedings. It's certainly his most ambitious work to date, and with some paintings measuring as much as 13 x 9 inches, also the biggest! Neither classical nor futuristic, Whalen's is a modern but parallel world, in which we see enough of ourselves to recognize a riddle but not enough to solve it. Merry Karnowsky Gallery, 170 S. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park; Sat., April 5, 8-11 p.m.; free with RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.; runs through May 3, Tue.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. (323) 933-4408, mkgallery.com.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: April 5. Continues through May 3, 2014
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