If a sculptor is going to make paintings, then ceramics seem to be the way to go.
That, at least, is the loopy lesson from Liz Larner's eccentrically engaging exhibition of recent work at Regen Projects. The show also includes more traditional freestanding sculptures, including a large, highly polished "X" of cast stainless steel that seems poised to leap into the air like a giant, agitated water bug.
Nearby, a billowy black form looks like the tail of a leaping whale paired with its mirror reflection in water. But a dozen wall-mounted, lozenge-shaped slabs of fired clay are finally what cause double takes.
Each is shaped like a Meso-American metate -- a grinding stone for grain -- here set on its side and affixed to a metal flange mounted on the wall. The fired clay form is encased in a thick layer of shiny epoxy infused with multicolored pigments, while the flat plane of the lozenge is bent, folded and buckled like a chunk of the San Andreas Fault.
The distressed form contrasts sharply with its sleek surface, yielding sculptural paintings that extend a lineage born in Bruce Nauman's fiberglass wall sculptures and the encaustic-encrusted panels of Lynda Benglis. Larner's strange objects fluctuate between scientific demonstrations of the geological shifting of tectonic plates and ritual tools of cult worship.
Ceramics has been an increasingly popular medium among artists in recent years. Partly that's because its analog material is about as remote from our digital age as it could possibly be. Larner is pushing it in inventive directions, which is no small feat.
Regen Projects, 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, (310) 276-5424, through Feb. 15. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. www.regenprojects.com