August 10 – October 20, 2019
Five Year Survey curated by Cooper Johnson
In MOAH’s Main Gallery, Five Year Survey, curated by Cooper Johnson features significant Los Angeles painters over the last five years. Its paintings range from socially-conscious figurative works to “pure” abstraction and everything in between. The exhibition exudes pure joy in paint as a material, with thick impasto brushwork, energetic mark-making, and bright, fresh color palettes. But paint isn’t the only material these artists utilize; photography, digital rendering, and printmaking all make their way into the work to break the mold of tradition and subvert expectations of what painting is and means.
Five Year Survey is a cross-section of Los Angeles painting of the last five years, as exemplified by 15 artists who are moving the medium in new directions. Whether the artists of the survey pull from socio-political fray, bend the logic of composition, reinvigorate the mark, or push painting into the digital, all have a command of material and concept that enables multifaceted work. More importantly, their work reflects salient aspects of living in the present moment: an increased awareness of identity, hyper-connectedness and information abundance, and a heightened sensitivity to what is fake and what is real. And in this context, three themes emerge throughout the survey.
First, many of the paintings in the survey address ideas surrounding identity. Taken together, these works suggest how identity can be viewed merely as a construct, but at the same time, the cause of serious issues concerning one’s experience. Something fabricated but nevertheless real. In Five Year Survey, identity is not about our physical features or inherent qualities, but is instead about the meanings we create for them, and store through object, symbol, and mark. And how those meanings, usually with historical and cultural momentum, are imposed, inflicted, or bestowed on each of us. Five Year Survey prompts us to consider not only how these attached meanings affect our day-to-day lives, but the inverse: whether there is something we truly are without our fabrications.
A second theme throughout the survey is the use of paint to confuse how we define and experience what is “real.” Whether approaching the issue from painting’s tradition of illusion or its drift into the digital, these artists manipulate the mind’s natural functions, ranging from base-level sense-making to the desire to treat illusion as real. Artists handle this in a variety of ways in the survey. Objects in a landscape might be simultaneously revealed as staged—mere props in a diorama—but remain cloaked in the illusion of representation. Forms can be ambivalently representative and abstract, trigging the mind’s need to recognize patterns, but denying it certainty. The “space” in a painting may be structured to contain incompatible objects, forcing the mind to reconcile what shouldn’t exist in the same space. Even light itself, painted as textureless and pure as the sublime, lets slight deviations of the hand creep in. These works leave the viewer in seemingly contradictory states: experiencing the painting as “real,” but at the same time, hearing its confessions to the contrary.
Third is the theme of plurality and purity in painting—paintings that do not zero in on any single concept, logic, or style, but are more interested in how different sets of rules can coexist in a single image. As seen over painting’s historical cycles of “purification” (and subsequent complication), narrowing down an image or process to its essence simultaneously constructs rules about the logic of its creation and interpretation. Although this isn’t new, the current trend away from “pure” painting seems to fit in the context of how technologically connected we are—not only do we have increasing access to a broader variety of work, but the role of the traditional gatekeepers is not as critical. In Five Year Survey, for example, this could include: charging geometric abstractions with agency or narrative; imbuing marks with more than the immediate movement or gesture, sometimes even elements of the painter’s identity; distorting the logic of the painting’s creation; nesting disparate styles within each other; or ironically adopting the rules of previous styles but conceptually contributing to them nonetheless.
While Five Year Survey has no unifying concept, these three themes have similar analytical structures that inflect on, resonate with, and map onto the others. Whether it is our identity, our reality, or our rules of constructing images, the survey asks the viewer to explore the relationships we have with our own fabrications—the extent to which they only exist because we created them, and the extent to which we are nevertheless bound to them.
DAVID ALLAN PETERS
David Allan Peters creates work that explodes with countless layers of color and intricate texture, combining painting with sculptural hand-carved qualities. Diamonds, grids and circles create kaleidoscopic compositions that vibrantly explore geometry, intuition and chance. He has become known for his innovative process of building up material which is then peeled and cut away exposing what is below the initial surface, unveiling various colors at different depths. Peters sometimes works for 15 years on a single painting, painstakingly applying layer upon layer of acrylic paint and then cutting, scraping, sanding and carving into the layers to show the passage of time similar to the rings of a tree trunk. From the by-products of his paintings, Peters recycles the carved-out remnants into bricks forming minimalist installations. He pushes the limits of acrylic paint and the traditional painting processes, while dissolving the boundary between the second and third dimension.
Rooted in the history of early West Coast abstraction, the genesis of Peters’ career was inspired by the dense layers found in other abstract artists such as Jay DeFeo. Continuously experimenting with pattern and diverse techniques, David Allan Peters’ latest body of work explores both the bold designs of Native American textiles and post-painterly, geometric abstractions. Peters received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont Graduate University following his undergraduate at the Art Institute in San Francisco.The artist has been featured in WhiteWall magazine’s profile on the Anderson Collection as well as the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, the New York Times and an artist profile in Elle Decor.
Site Specific Installation
Site-specific installation Infinite Love/Flesh and Blood by Erika Lizée spans three floors in the MOAH atrium. Erika Lizée uses trompe l’oeil and sculptural acrylic painting to create images that seem to “react” to the actual light and shadows of the space in which they reside. Her magically biomorphic installations are strange yet familiar, and seem to recede behind the gallery wall and reach out toward the viewer simultaneously. Lizée imagines the wall surface as a symbolic threshold between different realms or states of existence. She is also inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a tale of human perception and how our perceptions and experiences shape our personal reality.