Review: ‘3 Solo Projects’ at Ben Maltz Gallery


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The works that make up “3 Solo Projects” at Ben Maltz Gallery are clever showpieces of aesthetic resourcefulness that exploit the tension between synthetic and natural. Together, they make for a variably engaging show that could be subtitled “The Haunting, the Daunting and the Whimsical.”

Jessica Rath’s “Tree Peel” is the show’s visceral powerhouse. A cast of a dying tree, made of latex, cheesecloth, rubber, cotton, wire and steel, the piece reads as an unnervingly beautiful, vaguely toxic version of a leafless tree, with beefy, twisting trunk and numerous dead-end branches.


A cousin to trees created or re-created by Roxy Paine and Zoe Leonard, Rath’s stands as a gorgeous lament. Its acrid yellow skin is rough and webby, studded with chips of actual bark. The surface is a textural tempest, echoing Expressionist painterly muscularity as well as the frothy, Turner-esque sublime. “Tree Peel” oscillates profoundly between the noble and the grotesque.

Carrie Ungerman’s shimmering dreamscape, “silverflow,” sugarcoats a heap of trash. Miles of Mylar ribbon (from a few inches to more than a foot wide) drape, wrap and drizzle over bundles of used plastic water bottles. The piles rise like trees or mountain peaks, some to the full height of the gallery. With liquid rhythm, the Mylar reflects visitors like a fun-house mirror or a faceted Cubist vision, but the installation is neither fun enough nor visionary enough, just a mildly environmentalist spectacle of scale and effort.

Lynn Aldrich, a Southern Californian like the other two, injects into the show a note of playful lyricism with her assemblies of galvanized steel rain gutters. A dense cluster of them hangs from the ceiling, their curved openings (painted shades of teal and aqua inside) turned in all directions like inviting periscopes. In another installation, a group of the rain gutters sprouts from the floor like striving plants, alive and strangely charming.

-- Leah Ollman

Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, 9045 Lincoln Blvd., L.A., (310) 665-6905, through June 13. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Top: Rath’s ‘Tree Peel’; middle: Ungerman’s ‘silverflow; bottom: Aldrich’s ‘Desert Spring.’ Credit: Wayne McCall