Review: Why the ‘Color Walks’ abstractions of Judy Ledgerwood captivate like few can


Depending on what you think a painting is, the exceptional exhibition of mostly recent work by Chicago-based artist Judy Ledgerwood at 1301PE includes eight, 13 or 21 paintings.

A bunch of them are conventional canvases covered edge to edge with paint — oil or acrylic or both. Some do double duty by layering a picture of a painting on top of another painting. (Usually the picture is banner-like, its softly draped shape contrasted with the taut, stretched shape of its support.) Yet others do another kind of double duty as glazed and decorated ceramic vases.

All of them are sensual in the extreme, a condition amplified by luxurious, irrational color. Blue tends toward cobalt; red is crimson, and yellow and orange are sunny citrus. Pink is always hot.


“Color Walks,” the show’s titular painting, is layered with a Moorish screen of thick, golden disks. Elsewhere, linear loops and lozenge shapes suggest yawning cavities.

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The ceramic vases, thickly and colorfully glazed, accentuate any vessel’s allusion to a human body. No two are alike, but all of them share one feature: The foot and lip are always ringed in bright white. The foot emphasizes the vase as a body by anchoring it to the same floor a viewer stands on, while the lip stresses that the hole is an orifice.

Ledgerwood glazes the pot’s inside void too, which has the uncanny effect of exposing the volume as a form made from a colored plane of clay. No wonder these pots recall paintings.


On the canvases, paint is by turns brushed, clotted, squeezed directly from the tube, thinned, layered or mixed with wax. Three 1991 paintings are monochromatic fields of color — although the wax shifts the single paint hue in optically tricky ways, from muddy to atmospheric.

Ledgerwood’s emphasis on paint’s physical materiality as a substance gets witty conceptual kicks. When it is deployed on a big rectangular shape just inside the borders of the canvas, it becomes a painting within the painting, confounding nonfiction and contrivance. Elsewhere, runny paint from one shape drips down to the edge of another painted shape and — miraculously — the rivulets change direction, as if the second flat shape were instead a three-dimensional form, like a rock diverting a stream.

The extended rumination on painting and its skin-and-bones relationship to human bodies bumps knowledge up against art’s primary senses of sight and touch. At once erotic, humorous and philosophically sly, Ledgerwood’s paintings are among the most compelling abstractions being made these days.

Judy Ledgerwood

Where: 1301PE, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.

When: Tuesdays-Saturdays, through Dec. 21

Info: (323) 938-5822