Finding the Thrill of Mystery in the Details


It's a joy to behold John McCracken's new wall works at L.A. Louver Gallery. At once bold and sophisticated--or point-blank and exquisite--the 12 wall-mounted sculptures that make up this stunning show are so good they make the artist's 33-year exhibition history look like a warmup.

In the main gallery, six sculptures that are approximately as tall as a person (but not quite as wide), have the presence of icons. Unlike such monuments, however, whose authority resides in their eternal stillness, McCracken's three-dimensional triangles and trapezoids of highly polished resin appear to be on the move.

These solid slabs of supersaturated color resemble rectangles or equilateral triangles that have just sprung into the air, as if they were athletes taking off on standing broad jumps. A pair of sculptures, made of intersecting red and blue wedges, intensify this sense of bursting energy.

In the side gallery, eight compact columns of sumptuous color embody the giddy potential of a brand-new box of crayons. Upstairs, bathed in natural light, five smaller pieces look even more animated and interactive--as if they were team players, in contrast to the superstars on the first floor.

To glance down the slender gallery's length is to feel your eyes pulled gently along precisely placed lines and angled planes until they have wrapped around the entire room, eventually coming to rest on "Two," a black-and-white bar by the entrance. The only piece here whose edges are perfectly parallel, this three-dimensional diptych serves as a retreat from (or springboard into) the other sculptures' off-balanced vitality.

Filling three very different galleries with three equally fine-tuned fusions of precision and exuberance, McCracken's seemingly simple works turn the world into a two-dimensional picture. Just as quickly they flip it back into ordinary materiality and space.

To walk around any of the artist's wildly refined works is to see that paying attention to details pays off in the long run. For viewers, this simply means that the longer you look at these mostly monochrome works, the more you see. As your awareness of their details increases, so does their mystery.

At the top of his game, the 62-year-old sculptor has fashioned a body of work that is as scintillating as it is ambitious. The show is a feast for the eyes and a thrill for the mind.

* L.A. Louver Gallery, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-4955, through Oct. 18. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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