Early in his career, L.A. painter Lari Pittman produced paintings that envisioned a future place — somewhere between the physical realm and a state of mind — suggestive of humanity having reached higher states of both enlightenment and mania. In his first L.A. solo show, New York–based Yo Fukui strikes a similarly odd balance of the visionary, proposing a post–post–postapocalyptic world that is simultaneously armed and dangerous, warm and fuzzy and sometimes rainbow-hued. Fukui fits in nicely in the current L.A. scene — having garnered crafting skills and material-handling chops during undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and the Kansas City Art Institute, followed by an immersion in both academics and bling during grad school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His work would sit nicely in the company of Pittman, as well as L.A.’s late, great visionary Lee Mullican, and new(er)comers like Mindy Shapero and Evan Holloway, to all of whom his work is indebted, but he carves out a distinct sensibility, turning sculpture into both an instrument of catharsis and a form of physical comedy. The bleaker among his offerings — made of various combinations of chicken wire, paper, plastic, paint and tiny rectangles of felt applied like shingles — include “Space Colony” and “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die.” In the former, a form that appears both biomorphic and techy — imagine the Death Star morphed with a human figure abstracted by Henry Moore — seems to overwhelm the tree stump–shaped rock to which it clings, while the latter offers what appears to be a concretized plume of smoke or atomic cloud rising from a crater in a rock. A closer examination of its contours also suggests a kind of figure — a humanoid body devolved to nothing but a blob atop a lone, spindly leg stuck in a hole. Lighter are works like “My Battleship in 3003,” which resonate with sci-fi fantasy, folk art, the kinds of vitalist forms that defined Moore’s vein of modernist sculpture, and the discourse of the blob that has become a force in contemporary design and architecture. In these, Fukui manages to fuse the grotesque and the toxic with the humorous and the cozy. Most disappointing, and regrettably the most recently produced work in the show, is an ink painting — attempting to riff upon but mostly falling far short of the traditions of Asian brush painting — of raindrops across a grid of wall-mounted rolls of toilet paper. One hopes Fukui might back up a bit and try a different turn.
977 N. Hill St., L.A.; Tues., Wed., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; extended through August 22. (213) 620-0240 or davidsalowgallery.com.