Review: William Crump at LittleBird Gallery

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The mountain man in most of William Crump’s modest but affecting sketch-pad-size works on paper at LittleBird Gallery is always alone, usually atop a craggy peak. Wearing a look of deep introspection and patient endurance, a full, cheek-creeping beard and sturdy hat, he seems to hail from an earlier era, a rugged individualist in the period of westward expansion.

In one marvelously elaborate pencil drawing, the man’s lonesome quest is fueled by dreams of bounty. Swans, snakes, spiders and butterflies populate his private Eden, a plot of earth floating freely between hilly ground and slender rainbow. Crump manages some of the same fantastic incongruity in other pieces mixing pale graphite renderings with bold veins of opaque gouache. The push-pull that results is not just formal (the pencil lines faint and receding, the vibrant colors coming forward) but temporal, as if a collision of past and present visual idioms.

In one drawing, the man stands cloaked in stripes of ocher, pink, lime and taupe, pointing his gun westward. In another, he sits on a rocky rise as below him a horse writhes on its back within reverberating streaks of acid yellow, slate, pale blue, brick and khaki.

Crump’s work feels vaguely anachronistic, like the so-called antiquarian avant-garde photographers who favor obsolete techniques but whose images often contain contemporary references. Mainly, the New York-based artist’s L.A. debut reads as a thoughtful meditation on the discrepancies between external and internal journeys, the real and the ideal.


-- Leah Ollman

LittleBird Gallery, 3195 Glendale Blvd., L.A., (323) 662-1092, through April 8. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: ‘The Mountain of Tomorrows Sunrise,’ gouche and pencil on paper. Credit: LittleBird Gallery