Review: Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret takes note of imbalances

Review: Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret takes note of imbalances
"One Lamp, Ten Thousand Lamps, Lamp After Lamp Without End" by Mai-Thu Perret (2014); glazed ceramic. (Fredrik Nilsen)

Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret's latest exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles continues her engagement with the quietly feminist formalism she explored in "The Crystal Frontier," her long-running fictional account of a utopian, all-female community in the desert. Here, works in ceramic, textile and rattan are unmoored from any specific narrative and gesture toward larger cultural and political dynamics.

The standouts are the ceramic works: roiling, masticated-looking wall pieces or kidney-shaped flats studded with fecund eggs. Three vessels, gloppy and black like lava rock, appear about to implode on their pitted, lumpy, suggestively fleshy interiors. Dripping with glaze, either iridescent or the color and texture of marshmallow topping, they are eerily physical and endlessly fascinating.


These works might seem like throwbacks, but Perret also engages feminist themes in a broader frame. Her tapestries — textile instances of Modernist, abstract designs — cover familiar territory but also engage political and economic imbalances. Although Perret designs them, they are made by artisans in Mexico. The same is true of "Black Balthazar," a donkey sculpture made of black rattan. The animal is at once a popular decorative motif — the cute, Mexican burro — and a symbol of submission, a docile beast of burden. Through these subtle cues, the works obliquely embody complex relationships in which gender, economic and racial imbalances overlap and sometimes align.

David Kordansky Gallery, 3143 S. La Cienega Blvd., Unit A, (310) 558-3030, through March 22. Closed Sundays and Mondays.