If the eclipse got you to think differently about our solar system, “Staring at the Sun” is right up your alley. This four-artist exhibition at Big Pictures Los Angeles casts an enlightening shadow over everyone who crosses paths with its contradiction-riddled paintings on canvas, paper and vinyl. Darkness and illumination do not battle each other so much as they fuse in a queasy stew.
Dread and beauty collide and commingle in a pair of picture books by Aaron Morse. Each begins innocently, its candy-colored palette and paint-by-number user-friendliness evoking playtime amusements.
But as you turn the pages, images pile atop one another, blotting out the past and turning the present into an overdose of excitability. Two big swathes of wallpaper, also by Morse, crank up the craziness. Making the books feel like a walk in the park, his apocalyptic wallpaper amplifies anxieties of all shapes and stripes.
Discontent ferments in Aramis Gutierrez’s pair of oils on canvas. Each closely cropped image gives visitors just enough information to think that something has gone terribly wrong — either in the real world or with our capacity to comprehend it.
Time is turned inside out in Ariana Papademetropoulos’ hallucination of a painting. Her 6-by-4-foot oil on canvas presents ghostly women as if they were holograms. Each seems to be a memory that cannot be recaptured or relived.
Similarly, Mathew Zefeldt’s painting of the fleshless face of the Terminator — 16 times over — is a menacing demonstration of the fact that even though things might not turn out as planned, endings are invariably beginnings.
Of what, no one knows. And that is the mystery that lies at the heart of this frighteningly forward-looking exhibition.
Big Pictures Los Angeles, Saturdays-Sundays through Sept. 23. (917) 239-7206, www.bigpictures.la