Art review: Katie Herzog @ Actual Size Gallery


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Memory rather than vision seems to be the animating engine for Katie Herzog‘s paintings. The past shapes their present.

Five recent, very disparate works are at Actual Size Gallery. One playful picture shows a childhood playroom. Another is composed of rudimentary brushstrokes of yellow paint on a yellow background, loosely recalling a spectral face. A Latin inscription embroidered backward on a length of burlap is suspended like an ecclesiastical banner from another painting of a cloistered study.
Stylistically, no two works are alike. Conceptually, however, they offer a multidirectional consideration of the ways in which recollection operates. Herzog aptly titles the exhibition ‘Informel,’ after the postwar European painting movement that explored intuition, independent of the reasoning processes that had proven to be so impotent against the rise of fascism.

The most compelling work is the largest. ‘Braille Institute: Sight Center’ is a strange rendering of the well-known facility on Vermont Avenue in Hollywood.


Broad, horizontal smears of blended rainbow colors are topped by a thick blue-black band of paint that drips in arcs across the surface. A line of little rectangles of metallic color, somewhat like light reflected on an oily puddle, marches across the top. Absent any evidence of brushstrokes, the handprints encountered here and there on the surface suggest that this imposing depiction of the Braille Institute was entirely finger-painted.

A gallery handout says that Herzog studied the building’s fortress-like facade from across the street for an hour every day for five weeks, before returning to her studio, closing her eyes and painting (with her hands) from what she could remember. In this savvy work, Herzog attempts to reconcile a division in place since Marcel Duchamp famously dismissed painting as merely retinal art, favoring the eye over the mind.
The back story seems necessary to fleshing out her painting, as is often the case with Conceptual art, but that’s a memory a viewer cannot bring to the experience. Still, on the evidence of this small show Herzog is headed into provocative territory.

-- Christopher Knight

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Actual Size, 741 New High St., Chinatown, (213) 290-5458 , through Aug. 28. Open Saturdays and Sundays.