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La Cienega Area

Richard Milani and Peter Nagy manipulate the hyper-real, out-of-focus, schematic representation associated with media reproduction processes such as color separation, electronic transmission of imagery and Ben Day dotting. They use the format to comment on the information glut and the technology that duplicates information to the point of blurring context and meaning in an addictive white noise.

Milani goes at this with tightly structured, vaguely threatening scenes cleverly built from acrylic painted on fiberglass screens. The screens are suspended a few inches from their wall mounts, and Milani paints some areas and leaves others transparent. The resulting sense of depth isn’t realistic or pictorial but the silvery flickering artificial space of the boob tube. Onto this “media space,” he paints weird, open-ended narratives that deliberately suck us in--like a Levi’s 501 Jeans commercial--but end up being utterly without context or clear reference.

“Round Trip” is a black, news-at-9 close-up of rushing animal heads--either a pack of guard dogs or horses racing to a finish line. In other works, a Charlie Chaplin-ish figure clings to a rope and beauty queens squint vacantly at the sun. Is this humor or pathos? All the shimmery scenes--like so much of what we see, read, hear--deliberately lose themselves in the crack between portent and redundancy.

Nagy shows large black-and-white reproduction-style versions of Baroque and Rococo ornamentation. Impeccably painted to be barely decipherable, the fuzzy-edged putti and filigree look as if they were stopped at some midway point in the graphic reproduction process. He also shows stereo headphones and a totemic plug finely etched in low relief on sandblasted aluminum to look tantalizing but obscure. In “Belief in Style,” Nagy carries Milani’s argument to its logical conclusion: Even the hallowed ground of masterpiece art is being at once neutered and revolutionized by material culture. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to May 28.)

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