ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & CULTURE Culture Monster

Review: Dreamy disquiet in Matthew Penkala's colorful paintings

The colors of Matthew Penkala’s paintings are the first things you notice: baby blue, tangerine and cotton-candy pink, alongside creamy green, icy white and screaming yellow. The next thing you notice is that the synthetic rainbow of electric pastels that Penkala has sprayed onto his 4-foot-square canvases gets weirder the longer you look.

And that’s when things get even more interesting. The hallucinatory buzz settles into a groove that sets you to thinking.

Unlike so much of what makes up today’s visual landscape, Penkala’s paintings are slow burns. Combining the instantaneous appeal of eye-grabbing attractions with the lasting satisfactions of time-tested abstractions, his seven new works in "The Day You Crossed a Nova: New Paintings" at Western Project treat viewers to luxuries rarely found in contemporary art: reverie and introspection.

CRITICS' PICKS: What to watch, where to go, what to eat

These luxuries are not comforts. Penkala’s paintings lure viewers into worlds of great beauty. But they never let you get comfortable — much less lost — in such dreamy expanses. The illusion of infinity is shattered because each canvas is composed as if it were a painting within a painting, or three paintings melted into a conflicted, even tormented, whole.

The internal edges create a sensation of abrupt, violent cutting. Their disruptiveness recalls the torn edges of collages and the overlapping windows on a computer screen — raised to the 10th power. These laser-sharp borders always seem to come too soon, cutting off a view or an experience or an emotion before it has had time to ripen.

In Penkala’s poignant pictures of over-the-rainbow gorgeousness, niggling suspicions grow into queasy uncertainties that often give way to profound doubts about the effectiveness of anything and the point of it all. Dreamy disquiet never looked better, or more subtly unsettling.

Western Project, 2762 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 838-0609. Through Feb. 8. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.western-project.com

ALSO:

Getty gets Kitchen archives

LACMA's Abstract Classicism tribute

Bryan Cranston heads for Broadway

 

MORE

PHOTOS: Hollywood stars on stage

CHEAT SHEET: Spring arts preview 2014

PHOTOS: Arts and culture in pictures

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Review: Patrick Wilson throws vibrant curves in 'Steak Night'
    Review: Patrick Wilson throws vibrant curves in 'Steak Night'

    If Patrick Wilson tossed a pebble into a pond, the ripples that emanated from it would probably take the shape of perfectly formed squares or nicely proportioned rectangles. That is the image his exhibition, “Steak Night,” leaves with viewers: an impossible change to the laws of...

  • Monuments Men gallery to open at National WWII Museum
    Monuments Men gallery to open at National WWII Museum

    As public awareness of the Monuments Men continues to grow -- thanks in no small part to the George Clooney-directed movie opening in February -- the National WWII Museum in New Orleans said it will create a new gallery space devoted to the individuals who saved numerous artistic masterpieces...

Comments
Loading