Art review: Joshua Podoll at Christopher Grimes Gallery

Brushed, sprayed, faded, poured, taped, impasto, splashed – the paint on Joshua Podoll’s canvases amounts to a virtual lexicon of motifs in contemporary abstraction since World War II. Podoll piles them all up, one atop the other, making compositions that are part refuse-heap of exhausted strategies and part newly invigorated construction, scavenged from what is laying around and available for use.

At Christopher Grimes Gallery, eight recent paintings by the San Francisco-based artist are like graffiti that’s tagging the space of art, rather than the environment. Perhaps that’s why the larger works (as much as 76 by 58 inches) are more convincing than the smaller ones, which have the quality of sketches. (The smallest are 24 by 18 inches.) Big paintings such as “A Radiant Space (Homage to H. Hofmann,” “A Color That Does Not Exist” and the especially beautiful “Poetry of Dissonance” grab a viewer by the lapels, then yield to slow and almost meditative observation.

Whether using a bristle brush, an air-brush or pouring straight from the can, Podoll mostly draws with paint. The resulting linearity of the shapes drags your eye through dense thickets, across sudden openings and into clouds of color. The experience of landscape is evoked without being described. The diversity of painterly applications creates a constantly shifting sense of illuminated space.

Triangles are the most common shape, but a triangle’s visual stability is initially undercut by the overall abstract jumble. The longer you look, the more the composition settles down, eventually yielding up a marvelously composed sense of contemplative clarity.

Christopher Grimes Gallery, 916 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 587-3373, through Sept. 7. Closed Sun. and Mon.