Narcissism and social responsibility do not collide or even commingle in “I Want That Bag,” Christine Wang’s L.A. solo debut at Night Gallery. They simply sit, side by side, in the young artist’s half-baked paintings and undeveloped sculptures, which come off as the visual equivalent of tweets: thumb-jerk responses that are a lot less clever than — and nowhere nearly as consequential as — their senders think.
Some of Wang’s painted collages take the form of aggressive confessionals. Today, publicizing one’s shortcomings has become an end in itself — not a step toward self-transformation, as it was 17 centuries ago when St. Augustine got the genre started, but a self-serving defense of the way things are. That’s the tone of Wang’s works, particularly “Upper Middle Class,” a slapdash double portrait of her dad and herself.
Other pieces have all the subtlety of bumper stickers. Written at the center of Wang’s nearly 10-by-16-foot “Word Map” is “I’m With Stupid.” Golden arrows radiate to every corner of the globe.
Wang’s idea of aiming higher involves littering her pictures with tidbits of info about global warming, energy consumption, population rates, militarism and geo-political maneuvering, particularly in the Middle East. The attempt falls flat because no insights emerge from Wang’s flat-footed juxtaposition of words and images and her ham-fisted use of materials, including wildly patterned fabrics and hastily applied paint.
Glimmers of potential reside in “After Tiepolo” and other pieces that leave room for ambiguity. But overall, Wang’s works are too quick to the punch to be self-reflective or to inspire such self-awareness in others.
Night Gallery, 2276 E. 16th St., Los Angeles, (323) 589-1135, through June 28. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.nightgallery.ca