The Gleam in the Young Bastard’s Eye: Finish Fetish & The Continuing Fascination with Sensuality of Surface in Contemporary Art
William Turner Gallery
Bergamot Station Santa Monica
November 19 to January 3, 2011
From infancy, we are irresistibly drawn to shiny objects - their seductive surfaces that both reflect us and pull us in to contemplate them with greater intensity. Evidently, the attraction goes much deeper in Southern California, where a fascination with shiny surfaces is endemic to the local culture. In the 1960s, various artists began working in media with high gloss properties that evoked the prevailing surf and car culture. The trend engendered the term, Finish Fetish, describing this period in LA’s art scene.
Half a century later, the fascination with surface inspires a new generation of local artists. The Gleam in the Young Bastard’s Eye, at William Turner Gallery, is a fresh survey of the finish fetish from eleven contemporary LA artists: Lisa Bartleson, Casper Brindle, Alex Couwenberg, Fred Eversley, Eric Johnson, Greg Miller, Andy Moses, Ruth Pastine, Roland Reiss, Michel Tabori and Susan Woodruff.
Their works are all abstract explorations of color and a lack of texture - or rather, the smoothest most luminous texture imaginable - high gloss resin or lacquer - which plays with the light and compels the viewer to investigate more closely. There is a huge range in vision on the theme among the artists shown here. Included are pieces that appear almost industrial in their conception and execution, like Fred Eversley’s polished polyester resin sculptures of the 1970s and 80s, as well as muted and organic work like the acrylic images created by Lisa Bartleson as recently as this year. It’s also striking to note that while the greatest contrast in approach may be between these two artists, they are the only two in the show whose works explore the spherical shape.
In two pieces from her recent Sphere series, Sphere XXII (2011 – 37 X 37 X 3 inches) and Sphere XXV, (2011 – 37 X 37 X 3 inches) LA artist Bartleson investigates the scale of hues between colors. The focal point is a center of luminescence, which invites the viewer in, and makes the eye linger in a meditative gaze as the color fades outward, through a haze of subtle gradations in hue. The images are comprised of small painted rectangles collaged together in a riveting composite. A glossy finish tops them off. By contrast, the two Eversley sculptures, Blue & Red (1985 - 20 X 20 X 4 inches) and Untitled (1970 – 20 X 20 X 5 inches) are examples of the artist’s high tech explorations of the parabola and parabolic shapes as energy trapping structures. Lustrous light-reflecting dynamic pieces, these are not just shiny on the surface, but glossy to the core.
A single piece by Susan Woodruff, Buddha’s Dust (2011 – 48 X 60 inches), is a light-infused amalgam of pastel pigments floating on a black background, with the requisite high gloss surface. It’s may only be a subtle suggestion from her sensibility and palette, but Woodruff seems to channel a vague essence of Georgia O’Keefe gone acutely abstract. In Yellow Stratum, (2011 - 29 X 49 inches) and Blue Stratum, (2011 - 29 X 49 inches) two works from Casper Brindle’s Dislocated Stratum series, this LA artist embraces color and harmony with seemingly uninhibited fervor - electric horizontal bands of color across wood on panel, layered with a lustrous resin coating.
In another approach to the theme, LA Artist Andy Moses paints with pearlescent pigments on concave canvases, reminiscent of the old Cinerama movie screens of the 1950s. The effect layers the light and shifts the effects of depth and contrast as the viewer moves, or with changing values of light. Two works in this group show, Socorro, (2011 – 42.5 X 90 inches) and Paracas, (2011 – 54 X 114 inches) are like Technicolor visions of wood grain patterns.
Part of the prevailing local collaboration, Pacific Standard Time, Art in LA from 1945 to 1980, there’s much gleaming here to captivate both artists and those who appreciate art. If only the play of light on the surface and its impact on the colors underneath, the Finish Fetish continues to fascinate.
Megan Abrahams is a Los Angeles-based writer and artist. The managing editor of Fabrik Magazine, she is also a contributing art critic for Art Ltd., Fabrik, ArtPulse and Whitehot magazines. Megan attended art school in Canada and France. She is currently writing her first novel and working on a new series of paintings.
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