Lydia Dona's new paintings at L.A. Louver are as spectacular as ugly paintings get. Ugly is a harsh word, but Dona is patently uninterested in recapitulating Modernism's internal coherence, the self-sufficiency and self-referentiality that create its particular effect of beauty.
Riddled with pictorial contradictions, sudden shifts in mood and odd planar slippages, her large abstractions are bent on derailing themselves. The colors look like they want to be pretty, but have gone wrong: A pale pink with too much blue in it has become a cowardly lavender; the yellows have compromised with the greens and aren't happy about it; a nasty purple assaults the eyes. Between and on the margins of the color fields, there is much scribbling: scumbled hieroglyphics, random notations, street-like grids and an obsessive pattern of honeycombs.
If the New York-based artist's hope is to generate anxiety, hers is very different from the stomach-churning disquietude bred by Abstract Expressionists questing after the sublime. Ab Ex has long been an important subtext for Dona, as for any non-representational painter working in its unbelievably long shadow, and the younger artist quotes from it with regularity. Yet her Pollock-like drips have been blown sideways, her color fields are irregular and her signature clash of diagrams--borrowed in the past from EKG charts, car repair manuals and molecular models--are less Surreal-inspired memory fragments than evidence of linguistic overload.
Now that Postmodernism is the new orthodoxy, Dona's rhetoric about sloppily spliced discourses and voracious sign-systems bears the distinct ring of nostalgia. But thankfully, her paintings do not. They do not parade their theoretical underpinnings as if they were credentials, but rather, they make theory live.
This can be a very poignant sight to behold, as in "Movement-Image and the White Holes of Multiplicity" (all of the works have such fantastic, hyper-literary titles). A pinkish void in the center tries to push out the virus-like markings eating away at its edges, but to no avail. The void has already been infiltrated, demonstrating that even the most sincere desire for purity cannot prevent contamination.
* L.A. Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-4955, through Oct. 22. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Bumps and More Bumps: "Bumpy," the inaugural show at Post Gallery, surveys bumpy paintings, among them one that undulates with rhythmic exactitude, by David Lloyd; one lumped with rude clots of distinctly fecal-looking pigment, by Anders Lansing; and another studded with more delicate bits of flotsam and jetsam, by Michelle Fierro.
Habib Kheradyar, who curated this small group show, is to be congratulated for his specificity. Instead of yet another grand-scale manifesto about the rebirth of painting (which was, in fact, never dead, nor even as beleaguered as its supporters would maintain), Kheradyar offers several charming examples of a particular, painterly idiom, including his own bumpy "Painting Without Canvas"--a deadpan mound of oil, wax and tar scraped off of a now-defunct painting.
"Bumpy" is paired with a solo exhibition of ( surprise ) bumpy paintings by Leonard Bravo, the most impressive of which masquerades as a volcanic explosion, with purple and gold paint-smeared papier-mache bubbling up from the surface, less in rage than in eagerness. Other works by Bravo feature roundish projections articulated in one color, overlaid with paint splatters in another. These are smaller and more sedate, except for a pair whose palette of cream and blood-red conjures the scene of any number of heinous crimes. These works are simply weird, and their narrative qualities make them feel out of place in "Bumpy's" distinctly formalist context.
* Post Gallery, 1904 E. 7th Place, (213) 488-3379, through Oct . 14. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.