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Tim Bavington Sprays Exuberant, Visual Music

TIMES STAFF WRITER

From across the room, the largest painting in a show of new work by Tim Bavington at Mark Moore Gallery practically hollers, “Come look at me!” The Las Vegas-based painter betrays no fear of being flamboyant--and it’s easy to see why: His art delivers.

The 6-by-12-foot painting is titled “Aqualung (Solo).” Along with the four other paintings and one drawing in the show, it continues an excursion into musical analogy evidenced in Bavington’s first exhibition at the gallery two summers ago. Links between abstract art and music are as old as abstraction itself, but at this late date these paintings don’t need the connection to provide justification for eliminating recognizable subject matter. Instead, Bavington’s work amps up the ordinary rhythms of life into something fierce and exuberant.

“Aqualung (Solo)” is composed from intense acrylic hues--cherry red, wisteria, lime, orange, sky blue, olive--that are often made more dramatic through juxtaposition. Like the diving apparatus of the title, the synthetic pigments extend the colors of nature--or, in the pop words of the 1971 song by the eponymous Jethro Tull, “the flowers bloom like madness in the spring"--allowing entrance into an alien realm. The stripe painting brings forth rapture of the shallows.

Bavington paints with a spray gun. Often one stripe is overlaid on top of another. The vertical stripes are not taped, so the edges fuzz. The reiteration of narrow vertical lines suggests mechanical repetition; the longer you look, the more a pattern of broad bands of color seems to anchor the wide expanse.

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Yet any attempt to decode a strict sequence or methodical arrangement of colors will be defeated. Mechanical qualities are enmeshed with fluid and organic ones. You scan the paintings at random, and complex visual rhythms, feints, pauses and breaths emerge.

The show also includes two diptychs. “Hey Joe (Solo)” piles two 4-foot-square stripe canvases on top of each other, one all soft pastels and the other loud and vibrant. “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You (Solo)” pairs horizontal canvases, the bottom one composed of stripes in identical widths and the top one syncopated. A large drawing shows how Bavington works out his compositions with pastels before pulling out the spray gun.

The diptychs struggle against themselves and don’t yet feel resolved. What really wails is the visual wall of sound in “Aqualung (Solo)"--as well as in the slightly smaller “Crossroad Blues,” which is played in the complementary key of orange. Pump up the volume!

Mark Moore Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-3031, through Aug. 18. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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Childlike Colors Render Adult Desires, Anxieties

Has any painter ever employed a stranger palette than John Wesley’s? Born in L.A., the venerable New York artist uses the colors of the nursery--pastel pink and baby blue--to render poster-like images that embody decidedly adult desires and anxieties. The effect is at once funny and creepy.

At Daniel Weinberg Gallery, three paintings from the 1970s join nine recent works on paper. The latter would appear to be studies for paintings. In fact, several rework older canvases--making them studies from paintings. Shuffling the expected sequence seems just right for an artist who, for 40 years, has consistently painted adult themes in kiddie colors.

A chorus line of dancing female legs is chased by a spotted dog in “Let’s Get Out of the Hall” (1971). In 1976, “Woodrow Wilson Crossing the Delaware with Sea Scouts” arrived just in time for America’s bicentennial. (Mixing up the presidents from Emmanuel Leutze’s famous painting is only half the fun, as Wesley also borrowed the Surrealist downpour of raining figures from Magritte).

“Afternoon Sail at the Edge of the World” (1978) transforms the logo of a Kleenex box into a crashing ocean wave, while a small lozenge of pink near the top becomes a forlorn boat on the suddenly distant horizon.

Wesley’s pictographic style, in which flat colors are edged in black, also uses repetition to comic effect. If one wide-eyed little girl jumping for joy because “Daddy’s Home” is disconcerting, multiplying the figure by four transforms an exuberant domestic episode into an inescapable horror. Wesley has a way of twisting conventions into unexpected knots.

Take “Leda and the Man,” which performs a wild riff on a Greek myth painted by countless Old Masters. In Wesley’s world, Leda is not the voluptuous woman who bore Helen of Troy after a liaison with Zeus disguised as a swan. Here she seems to be the big white bird that flees in terror from the advances of a balding, slightly portly man with a mustache, who is dressed only in black socks and garters like some Super 8 porn star. The cheerful image gives boisterously entertaining new meaning to the lurid verb goose.

“Camel” does the same for the idea of having a cigarette after sex. “Cataract” mixes multiple meanings of the word--the clouding of the lens of the eye plus a waterfall--but sticks the eye in the face of a raucous cartoon duck and transforms the cascade into chorines’ legs dangling from his beak.

Wesley is at his best when he pulls the rug out from beneath expectations of rational comportment. There’s nothing explicitly vulgar in any of these works, yet all of them are bawdy for reasons difficult to explain.

Daniel Weinberg Gallery, 6148 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 954-8425, through July 20. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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Sculpting Fragments From Bits and Pieces

Fragmentation has been a principal trait of sculpture since Rodin. We tend to think of a fragment as something left over from absent wholeness that lies beyond the reach of atomized contemporary experience (and may, in fact, just be a myth). At Ace Gallery, Joel Morrison plugs into this sculptural tradition, but in a rather curious way.

Morrison’s abstract sculptures, which he collectively calls “heads and torsos,” approach fragmentation from the other direction: His sculptures aren’t bits and pieces left over from something presumed to have once been whole; instead, they are fragments themselves, built from bits and pieces--from other fragments cobbled together in a precarious but lively way.

Up on pedestals, most featuring a veneer of white Formica, the mutant pseudo-heads and sort-of torsos appear forlorn but plucky.

The show includes six sculptures, one of cast aluminum and five of cast fiberglass. One is unpainted and glows with mottled translucence; the rest are painted. The two most engaging works have been further doused with runny pigments and bandaged with multicolored gaffer tape; the stuffing seems to be coming out of various protrusions, but they possess an animal grace.

Most stand on knobby “feet,” whose placement outlines the shape of the pedestal on which they stand. The form billows up from there, so it’s a somewhat shaky perch. But the link between pedestal and object is emphatic--Brancusi approached by way of eccentrics like Victor Estrada and Saint Clair Cemin. These aspects of traditional sculpture acknowledge the context of an art gallery, which, in a period awash in anti-art, gives the battered fragments another witty spin.

Morrison’s first solo exhibition at Ace last year went in several directions at once (it almost felt like a group show). This more focused presentation picks one challenging path and follows through--with impressive results.

Ace Gallery, 5514 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 935-4411, through July 31. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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Familiar Commentary From Yoko Ono’s Work

Experiencing the world through the mediation of a camera’s lens has been a subject of inquiry for many artists since the 1960s, including New York Conceptual artist Yoko Ono. A pedestrian show of mostly recent work by Ono at Shoshana Wayne Gallery adds little to the established repertoire.

“From My Window: Rising (a)” is typical. A greeting-card poem about nature’s seasons, printed in the shape of a disk (think camera lens), abuts three ink-jet prints on canvas.

Ono’s photographs repeat one image, although it grows progressively darker from left to right: Mud-splashed eyeglasses and a drinking glass half-full (or half-empty) of water rest side by side on a polished table in front of a window. All types of glass--plus transparency, reflection and other qualities of light--create refracting lenses that alter our view.

This familiar commentary reiterates territory outlined in a 1961 entry in her notebook, “Make a photograph in which the color only comes out in a certain light, at a certain time of day,” which Ono transcribed in black ink on a small sheet of paper in 1997.

It’s on view with other notebook rewrites--instructions for Conceptual works, the manner inspired by John Cage’s method of scoring musical events--presented here as drawings.

Between 1961 and 1997, an instruction for a photograph that could not be realized except in the mind came to be regarded as a material object available for acquisition. What remains unchanged is an uninspiring imagination.

Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-7535, through Aug. 24. Closed Sunday and Monday.


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