Sally Bruno piles on the paint in her solo debut at LAM Gallery. So thickly layered is the paint and so visually tactile are the surfaces that her 14 recent works might almost be called relief sculptures.
Still lifes, birds, domestic interiors and gardens are Bruno's most common subjects, and the inescapable pleasures of a self-made home are their shared motif. Formally, the color-drenched paintings derive from artists like Henri Matisse and David Hockney. Technically they owe a debt to artists for whom colored paint is a lush material substance to be relished in its own right, such as the early work of Joan Brown and more recent examples by Michael Reafsnyder.
The forms in Bruno's pictures snap together like Lego bricks. Each flower petal, table leg or feather on a wing is a discrete chunk of color, sometimes monochrome but mostly multi-hued. The shapes are lavishly patterned, a syncopated visual rhythm established by repetitions of sinuous brushstrokes or vigorous stabs of paint, layer upon layer.
The liveliness is most compelling in the big floral pictures, such as "Orange Polka Dots." At 78 by 66 inches, the bristling profile view of a vase of riotously colored flowers on a table top, backed by linear waves of blues and whites, is taller than a standing person. The scale yields bodily heft, which the smaller, souvenir-like paintings lack.
Still life – or nature morte (dead nature) as it is otherwise known – gets turned on its head. The genre often has a moralizing subtext, which is inevitably keyed to religious or secular considerations of mortality. Likewise, Bruno's monumental still life paintings emphatically, almost defiantly insist on the temporal virtues of flat-out joy.
LAM Gallery, 913 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, (3230) 498-5977, through Aug. 15. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.lamgalleryla.com