Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Gallery Tour: April Shows in Los Angeles

Shows are popping up like crocuses in the Spring, and they are not just full of promise, akin to the season; some are shows by artists who have already demonstrated their accomplishments in innumerable ways. A few of their exhibits in Los Angeles are on view now and worth your attention: Arlene Shechet at Vielmetter, Mary Little, exhibiting at the Gallery on the Rooftop at 1700 South Santa Fe, and Jacci Den Hartog at STARS. 


Romance Language   Arlene Shechet

Best Picture, Arlene Shechet’s show at Vielmetter, emphasizes the same virtuoso skill and sensitivity to materials as the sculptures she last showed in Los Angeles in 2019. The main difference, besides the addition of textiles, is a new lightness to the work. Where earlier sculptures were often rooted in a weighted sturdiness, and sometimes leaned towards a cubistic structure, this new body of work generally expresses a more playful, organic attitude, even as they maintain their solidity. 

Again, her ability to imaginatively select and juxtapose different materials is one of her greatest strengths. Each material maintains its peculiar attributes while seamlessly integrating with every element via the thoughtful choice of size, shape, color and placement. It is no easy task, she just makes it look easy. Snug intersections between wood and ceramics appear very natural, like the ways different fanciful patterns co-exist in tropical fish; otherworldly, unimaginable, yet absolutely real. Her highly textured glazes, too, seem like the result of natural forces, pocked and forged in volcanic heat. There is obvious delight in Shechet’s choices, and the deliberate decisions are for the viewer to notice and savor, thereby keeping the process of creation foremost in our minds. Some art is so seamless as to erase the artist’s hand and cause our attention to focus elsewhere, but in Shechet’s work, we are acutely aware of each decision. That seems counterintuitive because the sculptures look effortless and entirely appropriate, but our attention never strays far from thoughts of the creative process. In the end, the sculptures are elegant objects that one can appreciate for all their virtues, chiefly their tactile beauty, mystery and humor.

Altered State   Arlene Shechet

Tell All   Arlene Shechet
Punch Line  Arlene Shechet

Pulse and Powder   Arlene Shechet

Bright Sun Cloud   Arlene Shechet

Punctuation Arlene Shechet

Rosemary   Mary Little

In a quirky space atop the building that houses Vielmetter, Nicodim, and Gavlak, you can ride the elevator to the roof and find a wonderful, surprising show by textile artist, Mary Little. Both the Gallery on the Rooftop and the artist were unknown to me, and the discovery of both was a delightful surprise.

Ballynoe   Mary Little
On the day I visited, the skies were overcast and the grey clouds lent a beautiful light inside the small venue, ideal for her monochromatic work. Little’s wall hangings made of unbleached cotton canvas are very quiet, embodying a subtlety that is meditative but startling in their purity. The Lineage Series features eight of her new works, all possessing a pristine elegance. Despite their formalities, however, they are not pretentious; the humble nature of canvas keeps them simple, akin to the plain yet ultimately refined sensibilities of the Shakers. Some are pleated like Rosemary, looking like an idealized curtain, while another, Balligan is scored at intervals, puckered from the incisions. All are made from pedestrian materials that have been treated with an uncommon reverence. It reminds us of the potential beauty inherent in all objects and materials. Here, Mary Little has shown us, not only the beauty of her art, but also a way to see her materials through her austere vision.

Balligan    Mary Little



Alexander    Mary Little

Descent  Jacci Den Hartog

 Jacci Den Hartog condenses her interest in rivers and waterfalls into muscular artifacts glowing in iridescent colors. In Gilded Space, her new show at STARS, the rugged sculptures suggest the transmogrified hues of petrified wood and the rusty grit of iron ore. Each seem to distill the essence of natural, geologic forces, something Den Hartog has engaged with frequently in her past work. This grouping is less conceptual than some earlier sculptures where she was grappling with a way to express the movement of water, but it seems to have allowed her to go more deeply into the heart of her subjects’ material attributes. There is a concrete, fundamental quality here. 


Fluvial    Jacci Den Hartog

Drift   Jacci Den Hartog

In addition to the sculptures that fill the main gallery, there are also some watercolor paintings in an adjacent  room that are  insightful companions pieces. In a loose, expressionist manner, they are yet another way that Den Hartog interprets fluidity. By continually finding new ways to interpret the geologic forces that fascinate her, Den Hartog succeeds in making powerful work that seeks to make the illusive more tangible. While honing her craftsmanship with diverse materials, she expands her ability to communicate the fierce and emotional strength of nature, and the personification of a psychological resiliency.

Flow  Jacci Den Hartog

Arlene Shechet  Best Picture, Vielmetter Los Angeles ,March 26- May 14. 2022

Mary Little, Lineage, Gallery on the Rooftop, Through April 23, 2022

Jacci Den Hartog Gilded Space, STARS, April 2 - May 21, 2022

All photos by the author

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