Attie's Paintings Promise Revelation but Deliver Irony


Chad Attie's frantically lush paintings at Newspace Gallery beg the question of their own sincerity. Modernist abstraction is distilled into a concatenation of roiling, thick and steamy brush strokes, slathered on with an intensity that conjures a pumped-up De Kooning. Sometimes, a figure or a tree will emerge from behind the multicolored scaffolding, without a hope of distracting us from the spectacle.

But the spectacle is designed to deceive. These breast-heaving paintings promise revelation, but they deliver irony in spades. They carefully mime personal expression, but incarnate an utter lack of it.

A single Attie "masterpiece" might read one way. An array of them, arranged side to side, reads like a run-on sentence.

The catch is that Attie seems uncomfortable about the nature of his work, or at least uncertain as to whether the viewer will snicker in recognition or sigh in tedium. So he surrounds some of the paintings with heavily scrolled, filigreed and froufroued gold frames, as if to say, "See, I don't really mean it." Any ambiguity is muffled and any risk averted. Underestimating the audience, however, proves to be a serious miscalculation.

* Newspace Gallery, 5241 Melrose Ave., (213) 469-1120, through Saturday.


Whimsical Widgets: Bumping, clicking, beeping and spinning noises are quite to the point in a slight but charming group show at Post Gallery. Terry Dernbach's 88 alternating black and white socks, strung up like disembodied piano keys, had dried by the time I got to the gallery, so I listened to a tape recording of them dripping onto a row of coffee tins and soup cans.

Here was a post-performance that perfectly complemented a post-Cage aesthetic. Elsewhere, Dernbach's whimsy threatened to get the better of him, as with a motorized device made of a cardboard McDonald's cup whose straw gleefully and inexplicably whirs around a detached plastic lid. (The relentless wheels of commerce?)

Another low-end nonsense mechanism, Tim Hawkinson's "Tuva," resembles a cheapie IV machine made of ancient plastic soda bottles and noisy, rusting connections. Meanwhile, the passage from ingenious gimcrackery to queer science is pictured in Leland Means' "Notations on the electromechanical communication possibilities between mechanical and natural structures: Preparatory study for translating the works of Mark Twain for reception by the Crab Nebula," a clanging contraption whose belabored title betrays its irony.

Hanging next to Means' magnum opus is one of Joyce Lightbody's obsessive little collages. It is included here because its teeny-tiny imagery references musical scores. Indeed, it alludes to sound without making any, but it manages to steal the show anyway.

* Post Gallery, 1904 E. 7th Place, (213) 488-3379, through February. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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