Attack Gallery debuts its new, larger space with works by two painters whose works epitomize that particularly post-modernist phenomenon of creative self-consciousness, the need to draw attention to artistic process, historical influences and the difficulties of translating idea into form. Canadian Susan G. Scott and Australian-born Geoffrey Hales employ different strategies, but their objective is the same: to deny their work dramatic resonance in order to stress the arbitrariness of structure and style.
Scott paints banal, tightly framed narratives in a format suggesting Polaroid photographs, each scenario linked by a common sub-title. A man typing, or someone unloading a car in the street are both labeled, "Are you really looking for me?", while a couple on a crosswalk, a man leaving a tip in a restaurant and a woman playing with teddy bears are grouped under the collective "So, you don't think this happens to other people?" Scott not only fragments narrative within the series, she also provides the barest detail within each work itself. Heads are cropped off, draining the characters of definable personalities. We are left to fill in the gaps ourselves, to juxtapose the text and the visual like a semiotic jigsaw. The problem is that Scott's scenarios are so intrinsically uninteresting that she seems to be abdicating subjective control to conceal more effectively a lack of anything to say.
Hales attacks the sanctity of the subject by employing a multitude of styles. A portrait of Jack Nicholson resembles Max Beckmann's "Self-portrait in Tuxedo" of 1927, while other figures and landscapes allude to Modigliani, Monet, De Chirico and Magritte. The subjects seem quite irrelevant, as if they were merely "camping out" within the context of a particular style, ephemeral excuses for mannered exercises in art history. Unfortunately Hales has failed to offer any insight into either process or appropriation because he cloaks the work in a Hollywood hipness that seems to be aimed more at commercialism than serious conceptual debunking. (Attack Gallery, 665 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Sept. 5)