Elliott Hundley’s new paintings and sculptures are more muscular and skeletal than anything the 38-year-old artist has exhibited since his first solo show in 2006.
They’re also stranger and sexier, their boldness ennobled by an embrace of abstraction that leaves lots to the imagination and nothing to chance.
In the past, a jittery wantonness suffused Hundley’s art. Most of his works were made of thousands of cut-up photographs pasted and pinned into messy maelstroms of prickly energy.
The massiveness of the accumulations gave them the presence of post-apocalyptic landscapes, wastelands rich with the detritus of Western civilization, its gizmos and gadgets alongside its masterpieces.
In contrast, Hundley’s 12 new paintings at Regen Projects are dense, their physicality a fleshy fortress. Their components — carved foam, collaged photos, oil paint and pins jammed all the way in — suggest that they are under immense pressure, like deep-diving submarines or visitors to Jupiter.
The most visceral ones — like “antennas hear antennas,” “silent factory” and “It will end.” — make you feel as if you’re inside a post-digital cyborg, looking out at the world from whence you came. The safety of distance is a luxury Hundley deletes, leaving viewers in the thick of things.
In terms of palette, most of his works are calm, cool and collected. But up close they’re unsettling. No story lines bind figures to their surroundings. Nor do the parts add up to wholes, be they limbs, printed sentences or swipes of paint-loaded brushes. Rough edges, loose ends and dangling appendages have been eliminated. Even so, Hundley’s works are more fractured than ever, their bluntness intensifying the chaos.
The same goes for his sculptures, which transform common stepladders into poetic evocations of hope amid despair. There’s a maturity to Hundley’s art, which puts you in mind of a control freak who knows just when to let go.
If Robert Rauschenberg’s combines could dream, or if Cy Twombly’s scribbled canvases had nightmares, Hundley’s works are what they would see.
Regen Projects, 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 276-5424, through May 17. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.regenprojects.com