Mathematical systems of order butt heads with the supremely illogical human mind in Tom Leeson’s work. Visual puns crafted like exquisite antique toys, Leeson’s mixed-media assemblages allude to theories concerning balance and gravity, then go on to illustrate how the best-laid plans of mice and men don’t always work so well. In “Making It Easier to Sweep Things Under the Table,” for instance, we find a saw midway through the last leg of a table that appears to be floating in air. How to make it easier to sweep under the table? The solution is obvious; get the legs out of the way!
There’s a slapstick sleight-of-hand about Leeson’s work and he takes a devilish delight in distorting scale and injecting an element of fantasy into otherwise mundane settings. Tiny hammers coexist with a 9-foot image of a 12-inch ruler, and in the show’s centerpiece, a massive mixed-media painting, “The Anxiety of the Influence of New Studios on Old Work,” a platoon of cranked-up cherubim swoop and soar around an artist’s studio, wreaking havoc.
There’s a sense of implied motion about Leeson’s illusionary tableaux and they often look like catastrophes about to happen. Tables, chairs and architectural fragments are tossed together in a post-earthquake mess, and in “Changing the Aesthetic Idea” a jumbled pyramid of ladders, sawhorses and chairs threatens a noisy tumble. The work takes on added tension when one learns that the pieces are glue free and hang together via precision balancing. They’re rather like ballerinas en pointe and you get the sense that the whole shootin’ match might collapse should a witless gallery-goer sneeze. (Ovsey Gallery, 126 N. La Brea Ave., to July 19.)