Art review: Kirsten Hassenfeld at Peter Mendenhall Gallery

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In her L.A. solo debut at Peter Mendenhall Gallery, New York artist Kirsten Hassenfeld transforms used gift-wrapping paper into strangely beautiful things whose heft and punch belie their modest beginnings.

Hanging from the ceiling, two take the shape of gigantic ornaments: 4- and 5-foot orbs covered with towers that recall the architecture of medieval castles, the designs of fantastic spaceships and children’s drawings of souped-up stars.

Another piece is made of 22 page-size hexagons, each oddly patterned mandala abutted to at least one other. Arrayed low on the wall so that its silhouette resembles a ruin, “Rockwork” also evokes hand-woven hot pads and decorative dishrags.

Hassenfeld’s three best pieces are the smallest: bits and pieces of wrapping paper that she has rolled into long, skinny spools — like drinking straws — and glued, after flattening them, to boards. Some strands have been woven, forming harlequin patterns. Others have been laid side-by-side, creating geometric configurations that recall eccentric quilts and the clunky graphics of video games from the 1980s. Each of Hassenfeld’s funky collages is an abstract landscape whose sky is alive with crackling, handcrafted magic and spooky, down-home charm.


--David Pagel

Peter Mendenhall Gallery, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 936-0061, through Jan. 14. Closed Sundays and Mondays.