LA WEEKLY: At a Pair of Culver City Galleries, Three Artists Flip the Script on Technique
-- BY SHANA NYS DAMBROT
Though Luis De Jesus and Tarrah Von Lintel technically share an address in the Culver City gallery district, their operations are independent of each other. However, this month these neighboring exhibitions are very much in conversation. Unintended as this confluence is, in each of the three artists having solo shows at 2685 S. La Cienega we see a version of the same dynamic — a totally unexpected, materially subversive and exceptionally analog, labor-intensive take on what would otherwise be traditional mediums of photography and drawing.
At Luis De Jesus, Paul Anthony Smith demonstrates the “picotage” method, by which photo-based mixed-media works are textured, augmented and disrupted by a blizzard of impossibly tiny pinpricks, which ruffle but do not pierce the surface of the paper. The effect is akin to digital pixelation, but because it is also dimensional, as you move around, the image, though still, seems to shift and change, in a kind of analog lenticular, made with paper and a tiny ceramic implement.
Smith uses this arcane technique not only for the patterns’ considerable optical effects but also because the obscuring and splicing of imagery it produces serves his deeply personal, cultural narrative of immigration, invention and embracing a multicultural identity. The images he uses includes both found his own photographs of family and friends in the Afro-Caribbean diasporic communities of Jamaica, Brooklyn and Puerto Rico. By first capturing and composing, then deconstructing and abstracting these portraits, Smith is enacting a physical metaphor for their experiences.
At Von Lintel, Michael Waugh makes large-scale ink drawings of pastoral scenes with woods and horses and dogs, in a rough yet finessed black-and-white mark-making style reminiscent of 19th-century etchings. These scenes are impressively nuanced and detailed landscapes — but those are not just pen strokes. Lean in close and you soon realize every single ink mark is, in fact, writing. And not just any writing.
Waugh meticulously transcribes bureaucratic documents and philosophical texts, such as might be issued by academic or governmental institutions, the Federal Economic Impact Report, or studies on election tampering. These dense, chewy texts would be challenging enough to read through on a page, much less subjected to Waugh’s expressive, nuanced, calligraphic onslaught. But you can make out just enough to both marvel at his patience and skill and taste the irony of the content compared with the gentility of the pictures he creates using this eccentric content.
Also at Von Lintel, Klea McKenna makes lyrical and surreal high-resolution photographs of well-worn ceremonial garments — using no camera at all. She has perfected variations on a method she calls “photographic rubbings” in which surfaces and objects are embossed and debossed directly onto light-sensitive paper. It’s sort of like the charcoal gravestone rubbings we made in grade school — but with photo paper and pressure rather than any pigment.
She has made nocturnal tree rubbings in this way, as she needs to work in darkness before exposing the textured paper to light sources.
But for her current show, she used this technique on handmade garments, some as old as 150 years. Her resulting photograms — remember, no camera is introduced at any point — are minutely detailed, and also singular unique editions, whose imagery and physical texture reflect the very threads of the fabrics she depicts. In this way she reanimates the intimate and touch-based experience of
Installation view of PAUL ANTHONY SMITH: Containment, 2018. Photo by Michael Underwood. Courtesy of Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.