Critic's Choice

Paul Pascal Theriault: Turning everyday junk into childlike wonder

The materials that make up Paul Pascal Theriault’s little assemblages at the Los Angeles gallery Grice Bench can be found in trash cans just about anywhere: cigarette packs, paper cups, plastic spoons, dirty napkins, sandwich wrappers, rubber bands, nail polish bottles and Band-Aids -- name brand and generic.

But trash is not the only ingredient that goes into the L.A. artist’s weirdly endearing works. Small quantities of home improvement supplies, such as cement, wire, plywood and lumber, add heft and purposefulness to his ramshackle assemblages.

Materials from arts and crafts stores bring the innocence of childhood into the mix. These include ribbon, fabric, glitter and plaster, as well as paint brushes, decorative stickers, clothes pins and gobs of pastel-tinted acrylic, which Theriault has slathered on his scrappy pieces with the goodwill of a preschooler.

The combination of junk picking, home maintenance and school projects gives Theriault’s works uncanny resonance. Unlike many assemblages, which rub your nose in ugliness to make it painfully clear that life isn’t pretty, his odd constellations beautify their surroundings.

Most rest on messily painted pedestals, the tops of wobbly tables and along the edges of shelves made from wood scraps. If you squint, some resemble cut flowers in vases. Others recall the family photographs and cherished knickknacks that transform houses into homes. Those sentiments and memories do not vanish when you look closely and clearly. They form the emotional backdrop against which Theriault’s forlorn assemblages strut their underdog stuff, defying futility by making room for real renegade beauty.

Grice Bench, 915 Mateo St., No. 210, Los Angeles, (213) 488-1805, through March 12. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.gricebench.com

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