"Superfecta," the title work in Sadie Barnette's impressive Los Angeles solo gallery debut, casts a sharp and witty side-eye on the state of today's art world. It's a love-hate theme that runs through her show.
At Charlie James Gallery, the word is drawn in dark graphite on white paper, lower on the left than on the right, its invocation of making a long-shot wager on a horse race presented as a steep climb. At the word's end, a spritz of black spray-paint turns the superfecta into something between a smudge and a dark shooting star.
It's reminiscent of the jaunty Spam can in Ed Ruscha's great 1962 painting, "Actual Size," an advertising label for a canned good that is turned into an unnatural comet shooting across the canvas. Barnette's drawing is mounted on a 36-by-44-inch sheet of orange plexiglass that pulls in ambient light, framing the sentiment with a subtle, queasy glow.
Barnette uses sheets torn from the daily racing form as the paper for most of her drawings. Numbers one through nine, alternating between positive and negative stencil-shapes in the manner of Jasper Johns, are drawn in silvery graphite that obliterates much of the surface.
What peeks through is sporting information about competition. There are lists of contesting horses, an avalanche of statistics, trumpeted purses that an eager bettor might reap and ads that pitch a variety of handicapping aids. Today's behemoth art market, which subsumes artistic engagement within guesses about the potential for assorted asset classes, looms.
One triptych further ups the ante. At the left, a jockey on horseback furiously pushes his steed forward. At the right, an American flag sags, drooping along the bottom of the sheet.
And in the center, the excited chant of the fans -- go, go, go, go -- is repeated more than 20 times across the underlying racing form. The sly invocation of global art dealer Larry Gagosian, nicknamed "Go-go" by the art world, seals the deal.
Charlie James Gallery, 969 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, (213) 687-0844, through Feb. 20. Closed Sunday through Tuesday. www.cjamesgallery.com