Pictured: Gustave Moreau’s “Salome Dancing Before Herod” (1874-76). (Robert Wedemeyer / Hammer Museum)
Since 1990, Maxwell Hendler has been doing the same thing: pouring a layer or two of liquid resin over a plain wood panel, laid face-up in his studio, letting it dry for a few days and then sanding and buffing it for hours and hours, until its surface is a glassy slab of radiant color.
Although the process is laborious — as repetitive as picking strawberries all month or hand-sanding a house — the results are exciting.
Every painting is its own thing: its dimensions in sync with its color, sheen and degree of translucence so that it seems perfect, as sensible as a Quaker table and as sexy as a Ferrari.
Perfection and aesthetics do not usually go together, but Hendler’s deliciously mysterious monochromes make their pairing seem natural, part of a cycle that is bigger than any of us and sublime to contemplate.
At Manny Silverman Gallery, 12 new paintings and two slightly older ones make your spirit soar. There’s more space in these paintings, their colors are subtler and the relationship between the wood’s grain and the resin’s translucence is more complex, mysterious, mesmerizing. Titled “Maxwell Hendler (All Summer Long)” the show captures the carefree joy kids feel when school’s out for the summer, the days are long, the weather’s great and nothing’s scheduled.
Words can’t come close to describing Hendler’s palette. “Paperback,” measuring slightly more than 7-by-8 inches, is crème brulee for the eyeballs, a space-saving taupe masterpiece. “Sunshine State,” at more than 6 feet long, is neither custardy nor mustardy, its matte golden yellow delivering the gentle precision that is Hendler’s specialty.
A whisper of baby blue suffuses the warm pale white of “Orlando.” The deep blue-violet of “Façade” appears to be as smooth as black ice and as fuzzy as felt. If cumulus clouds were made of perfume, they might look like “Map,” which stops you in your tracks right inside the front door.
One of the things that distinguishes paintings from the screens of digital devices is that their surfaces allow for far more variety, in terms of texture. Hendler’s super-smooth paintings give up that feature yet still beat screens at their own game. As a colorist he’s a genius, and that’s all he needs to make paintings so gorgeous you see everything in a split-second and cannot stop looking, well into autumn and far beyond.
Manny Silverman Gallery, 619 N. Almont Drive, (310) 659-8256, through Aug. 17. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.mannysilvermangallery.com