Art review: Charline von Heyl at 1301PE


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Seven new paintings by German-born, New York-based Charline von Heyl tread familiar ground between gestural abstraction and Pop representation, all while managing a distinctive and very appealing sense of independent identity. At her best, Von Heyl makes paintings that bristle with quiet yet potent pictorial energy.

Her second solo show at 1301PE opens with a suite of 22 mixed-media works on paper that seem integral to what one will encounter in the paintings upstairs. (The drawings were all made in 2010; the paintings date from this year.) Intimations of graffiti mix with vague suggestions of landscape, urban and not, while specific natural elements -- trees, a butterfly or moth, animal tracks -- sometimes turn up. Bright color inflects a preponderance of black.


In the paintings, Von Heyl draws with color. Shapes that appear to overlap are, on closer inspection, made from deepening the color’s value or carefully abutting different colored shapes. Only sometimes is the painting tool a brush, and gravity is a regular contributor to composing the image. Pigments are dragged across the surface with a squeegee, poured in rivulets, or scratched away with a stylus or the stick-end of a brush, revealing other colors beneath.

Mediums also get mixed -- usually oil, acrylic and charcoal, which don’t blend but do bleed, clot and scumble, creating tactile surface variations. One result is a surprising visual tension between spontaneity and calculation, wild abandon and thoughtful deliberation, the raw and the cooked. Intimations of hands and feet intersect in ‘Blue Hermit.’ The big, black egg-shape sitting on the lower edge of ‘Flagbird’ suggests a coy promise of regeneration within the tattered remnants of the flag above. Like a storm-tossed vessel, a warped checkerboard in the lower right quadrant of ‘Catch Mad Wreck’ begins to descend into a visual vortex of deep space, only to be snapped back to the surface by swinging curves of black around it.

Von Heyl’s best paintings are at once obdurate objects and elusive phantoms. In most cases the work is slow to reveal itself, requiring that you meet it on its own terms; when you do, you’re hooked.

1301PE, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 938-5822, through June 18. Closed Sun. and Mon.


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