Art review: DeLoss McGraw at Couturier


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This post has been corrected. See note below.

DeLoss McGraw has long based his sprightly gouaches on literary sources, but for several years now he has created a more perfect union between image and text by painting directly onto the pages of books, some still bound. Pigment thickens the volumes both physically and metaphorically, adding layers of resonance, variably obscuring and isolating sections of text, setting in motion verbal/visual echoes, rhymes, collisions, collusions.


Two shelves filled with such hybrids are the highlight of McGraw’s show at Couturier, composed mostly of slight yet luminous paintings on paper. The books come in different forms, slipcased, and as loose-leaf pages in portfolios.

Within a painted box, McGraw has nested a marvelous paper coil containing the first paragraph of ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ written out in vibrant, shifting hues, in his own characteristic, loping script. The words pass over a collaged photograph and painted piano keys, unspooling in time and space with Faulknerian momentum -- elusive and persistent.

In a palm-sized gem, McGraw riffs on a single bound poem by Robert Creeley, distilling it further, and proposing new rhythms, new emphases. A poet himself of the color blue, McGraw has painted over one page in indigo, leaving just two sections of text legible. One, in the shape of an eye, contains a passage with the words ‘see’ and ‘looking,’ while the other, rectangular, holds more than one reference to the mind. Vivid reminders of the sculptural objects that printed texts have always been, the books all can be held, and are reveries for hand and eye alike.

-- Leah Ollman

Couturier Gallery, 166 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 933-5557, through April 14. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

[For the record, April 6: An earlier version of this review had the wrong area code for the Couturier Gallery.]