Though humility can easily transmogrify into arrogance, Richard Tuttle has maintained--over a distinguished, 30-year career--a set of attitudes and a vocabulary of forms that are astonishingly unassuming.
This is not to say that Tuttle's work is without pretense. It wants to make a big point with and about the minimal gesture, while refusing to accede to Minimalist art's historic ethos that "what you see is what you see."
Here, what you see is a jumping-off point, a threshold leading onto psychologically treacherous territory. The fragility of Tuttle's drawings and objects is not only an intellectual exercise, a test of art's breaking point, but also an invitation to believe.
At Kohn Turner Gallery, the New Mexico-based artist is showing a new series of works titled "Europe Wired." Each consists of a rectangular board studded at its four corners with white pegs, across which are stretched fine pieces of gold wire. At the top of each board, a perforated sheet of white paper is threaded through the wire.
Blowing lightly in the gallery's air-conditioned atmosphere, the thin pieces of paper appear to be blank, signifying nothing but the speed of the air current. In fact, each features a simple mark, a constellation of such marks, a touch of color or a rudimentary design, surrounded by a pale pink border.
All of the usual elements are in place, yet this show is disappointing. The work seems out of kilter--conceptually, if not formally. The metaphor of framing that dominates is particularly misguided, given Tuttle's historic attraction to ephemerality. The act of repeatedly enclosing something--however fine the gold wire and however tentative the pink line--promises something important, something weighty. Tuttle's imagery can only seem thin in this context, and it unsurprisingly falls flat, the victim of a scenario the scenarist doesn't seem to be prepared to act out.
"Europe Wired" bears an edginess that is quite different from Tuttle's trademark poetic incertitude. However radiant its skin, this art is uncomfortable in it.
* Kohn Turner Gallery, 9006 Melrose Ave., (310) 271-4453, through Saturday.
Right Ingredients: At Richard Telles Fine Art, Ginny Bishton's first solo exhibition is startlingly dramatic, as spectacular as 1,300 miniature photographs of someone gathering the ingredients for a loaf of bread could possibly be. Girding the gallery's four walls like a homemade vise, these black-and-white photographs are cut from contact sheets and depict the artist--over many months, in many outfits, in various haircuts--standing in front of a table with a spice rack to her left, measuring, arranging but never mixing ingredients for bread.
Above the two rows of images are four drawings whose abstract imagery conjures a fever dream of rampaging pipe cleaners. Their stark graphic contrasts, obsessive forms and ritualized mode of production (each is designed according to a random formula of four symbols and five colors) tie them nicely to the photographs below. That you have to crane your neck to see them, however, suggests that Bishton doesn't care all that much about being nice.
This work follows the expected protocols. It quotes liberally from the history of contemporary art--from Minimalism's enshrinement of the grid and the series, Post-Minimalism's embrace of the organic, the personal and the gestural, and even from Allison Knowles' Fluxus commandment to "Make a Salad." But it doesn't choose sides--less out of indecision than out of perversity, or rather, a perverse attraction to unfinished business.
That Bishton never makes the bread she devotes so much time and energy to doesn't mean she doesn't know how. It's rather that she understands that unfulfilled desire is the most evocative kind.
* Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., (213) 965-5578, through Nov. 11. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Interior Designs: Jeffrey Yoshimine's wall paintings at Patricia Faure Gallery are lusciously beautiful: a black gridded wall, heavy with Islamic overtones; a wall of jewel-toned paisley, blown up to surreal dimensions; a softly striped wall, suited to more restrained personalities; and for those enamored of whimsy, a wall covered with a shorthand version of the Taj Mahal, topped by a dome that looks like a lime-green Hershey's Kiss.
These post-colonial, post-industrial, post-frescoes swing back and forth between the realm of interior decoration and that of fine art. They would work as dramatic backdrops for high-priced furnishings: They are visually rich without demanding sustained scrutiny. But they are too knowing to dismiss as mere stagecraft. Their irony suggests bigger intentions.
Yet at a time when irony cannibalizes every gesture, it may be impossible to perceive these extravagant tableaux clearly. When Yoshimine appends a black silken tassel to the black gridded wall, is he referencing the regional origins of the design, or indicating where a swath of drapery would look just right? Are these coy readings of the history of decoration, or is irony just another part of the decor? I suppose it's a relief that not even Yoshimine seems to know for sure.
* Patricia Faure Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 449-1479, through Saturday.
Piecemeal Approach: At Hunsaker/Schlesinger Fine Art, Richard Sedivy's recent paintings are well-executed but unexciting. They seek to address grand themes of Western philosophy. The titles indicate the artist's ambitions: "The Problem With Memory," "Concomitant Energies, Symbiotic Dreams," "Experiential Flow."
The problem, however, is not with the scope of the artist's investigations. It is with his approach, which feels not only played out, but also as if it were hastily cobbled together from bits and pieces of other people's work, ranging bizarrely from Brad Durham to Lita Albuquerque.
Here are visual tropes we've seen too many times before: frames within frames, images of nature juxtaposed with fragments of culture, representations that masquerade as abstractions. And here are symbols that are simply wearying: the globe, the book, the cube.
Sedivy is skilled at certain things, most of them formal. He knows how to juxtapose different textures to interesting effect. And he has also perfected a showy trick: concealing an entire city skyline within a blurred horizon line.
These are small things, certainly. But Sedivy might well consider the adage that truth is to be found in the details and proceed next time from there.
* Hunsaker/Schlesinger Fine Art, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-1133, through Oct. 28. Closed Sundays and Mondays.