David Lloyd’s Ethereal Paintings Teeter Between Science and Mysticism

“Nothing is really knowable,” says painter David Lloyd, even though “we give special attention to some things and other things we call crazy.” The tension between the mystical and the scientific, the fringe and the mainstream, has become a central focus for the artist, who in his most recent solo show at Klowden Mann has further worked that hazy territory into a series of paintings, his first in some time to return to the abstract sensibilities that catapulted him to fame at CalArts in the ’80s.

The works in “New Paintings,” where graphic figures and delicate lines sit against a wash of soft hues, invite comparison to cartoon figures or landscapes, hieroglyphics or animated creatures. In An Illusive Path (2014), a closer inspection of a chunky patterned swath betrays a hand tugging a fine string; hovering blocks of matte color are at once totem-like and futuristic in Eldorado (2014).

The parallels between the California-based Lloyd’s work and the history of his oft-mythologized state are often noted—his collages at times fold in the traditions of Hard-edge painting, a form of clean, geometric abstraction favored by Californian painters such as John McLaughlin in the late ’50s. His materials—spray paint in gauzy washes, bright pinks, and yellows—recall the technicolor neon of earlier Californian Pop Art movements. His work plays with iconography both psychedelic and pseudo-scientific. But California is also a land for reinvention, and Lloyd, some 20 years after moving away from his popular and lucrative abstract work, is enjoying success with a practice he says is less “removed from real life.” 

Working as an abstract painter in the ’90s, Lloyd wanted to stretch towards addressing more concrete subjects: “Asking does blue go with red seems divorced from reality,” he noted recently. In two previous solo shows with Klowden Mann, he’s sought to balance the formal beauty of abstract work with more recognizable images—his mixed media work The Warrior (2012), for instance, placed a Photoshopped figure inside of his characteristic fractal-like colors. In “New Paintings,” he’s using his unique eye to complicate the idea of abstraction, demonstrating how relatable and clear-eyed ethereal paintings can be. 

Molly Osberg

New Paintings” is on view at Klowden Mann, Culver City, California, Oct. 25, 2014–Jan. 10, 2015.

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