Art review: Daniel Pitin at Mihai Nicodim


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The materials and references densely layered in Daniel Pitin’s recent paintings at Mihai Nicodim are beyond excavation, and the work is all the richer for feeling just out of reach. Pitin, born and based in Prague, embeds printed matter — ads, scraps of books and newspaper — into his canvases and occasionally writes cryptic snippets across them.

He paints in inky dilutions and viscous crusts, cloudy grays, scorched blacks and seeping yellows. A recognizable subject anchors each painting — a beekeeper standing among his boxes, a woman sitting on the edge of a bed — but suggestion often overtakes description. Narratives elude definition. All the while, the surfaces feel viscerally immediate.


Pitin invokes the past, in part, through television and film stills that he incorporates into his paintings and sequences that he uses as raw material for his own videos.

The canvas, “White Ribbon,” shares its title with a Michael Haneke film set in Germany just before the First World War. Its classroom scene relays little about the story but seethes with tension and latent danger. For “Noise,” a seven-minute video montage, Pitin builds crafty continuity from the discontinuous parts of a crime drama, inserting incongruous elements (the open sky at the top of a stairwell, pumpjacks in a cobblestone square) into the fragmented tale. The recent history of Pitin’s native land, in particular the uneasy overlay of capitalist present atop communist past, factors into the tone and texture of the work, which reckons potently and at once with fact, fiction and memory.

--Leah Ollman

Mihai Nicodim Gallery, 3143 S. La Cienega Blvd., Unit B, L.A., (310) 838-8884, through March 24. Closed Sundays and Mondays.