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Review: Dianna Molzan's playfully jaundiced view at Overduin and Kite

Fourteen new paintings by Dianna Molzan look at the proliferation of Conceptual abstraction in recent years with a playfully jaundiced -- and refreshingly irreverent -- eye. It's just what's needed to inject life into the familiar genre.

An untitled work of modest size (24 by 18 inches) in her ingratiating show at Overduin and Kite is emblematic. The seemingly simple, finally complex composition is constructed from mosaic planes.
Interlocking wedges of brushy red, blue, green and gold are interspersed with patches of white.

The colors register with the slightly metallic grate of an old cityscape by Fernand Léger or the early 20th-century Russian abstractions of Lyubov Popova, Mikhail Larionov and Kazimir Malevich. The crisp Cubist structure is dotted with random paint-splatters that are less Abstract Expressionist than like residue from a drop cloth used to paint the living room.

Knotted red tassels poke through the patterned surface and dangle gaily from the painting, literally unraveling any established Futurist theme of the struggles between man and machine. Molzan's work is as much a nostalgic memory of thrift-store vintage clothing or domestic upholstery as it is of Cubo-Futurist promises of Utopian industrial harmony. 

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Sources in the Russian avant-garde and German Bauhaus are encountered in several works, one smudged with flashes of gold paint like it’s the abstract equivalent of an Eastern European icon. A floral still life owes more to Mexican folk art, its flattened array of roses, carnations, pansies and asters more like the decoration on a lacquered wood tray than the profusion in a tabletop vase. And nine tin cans actually made from canvas painted silvery gray are suspended from a stretcher exquisitely crafted from poplar, crossing Jasper Johns with the ornamented bumper of a newlywed couple's car.

A few paintings get rather arch – especially one made from five tall, thin bars that stand an inch or two away from the wall on attachments painted like cartoon eyes or lips, as if sight and speech are keeping abstraction afloat. Overall, however, Molzan manages a sly fusion of high art and utilitarian verve.

Take the perimeter of another stretcher that is covered in scrunched black canvas, as if rolling up its sleeves to get to work. A surprising sense of animation marks Molzan's best paintings, even when they don't actually move.

Overduin and Kite, 6693 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 464-3600, through Dec. 21. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.overduinandkite.com 

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