Paul Winstanley presents a new series of paintings along with a set of watercolors. Six of the paintings picture the waiting room of a South London institution, built in the late '50s as part of the United Kingdom's postwar boom and the democratization of access to public services. These interiors display a stripped-down functionality that might be described as “minimal” although they exhibit none of the sumptuous qualities associated with contemporary minimal architecture and design. This utilitarian aesthetic is the consequence of a cultural period that lasted in Britain from 1945 to 1979. Although the décor appears forlorn by today's standards, it was nevertheless, part of an ideal of utopian hope growing out of the experience of war. This tension between melancholy and utopia also exists in Winstanley's paintings of nature. Evergreen in the Grounds, which depicts an evergreen pressed against the institution's walls, reiterates the building's dystopic complexion despite the optimism of its founding intentions.

Through Winstanley's masterful handling of paint, form and color, existential spaces are rendered both haunting and beautiful. Their superlative technique is surpassed only by the loaded questions they bring to the fore.

PAUL WINSTANLEY: 1301 PE Gallery, 6150 WIlshire Blvd., L.A. (323) 938-5822. Through Nov. 6

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