The centerpiece of Jeff Colson's small but mighty show at Maloney is an installation titled "Stacks." A drop-leaf kitchen table stands alongside a two-drawer file cabinet, and the tops of both are heaped with paper: towering stacks, stray sheets, folded and wrinkled pieces.
A yellow milk crate beneath the table holds some overflow, and a few crumpled balls rest on the floor beside it.
Colson, based in Pasadena, is a wizard at trompe l'oeil illusion (kin to Daniel Douke and Kaz Oshiro), and he folds back the curtain in places to reveal his own wizardry. He crafted this scene out of wood, resin, paint and urethane. This absurdist ode to paper contains none at all and is all the more resonant for the canny subversion.
What appears straightforward and direct derives its power from obliqueness. What registers as familiar turns out to be something unusual, idiosyncratic. What reads as a mundane mess is actually a metaphor.
The blank sheets, in a range of musty off-whites, invoke potential, but even more so a hapless obsolescence — paper as old-fashioned, quaint as the dated furniture it sits on.
Colson also has been making wall-mounted sculptural reliefs that pass as paintings, and four of the works in wood, fiberglass, steel and acrylic are on view. These, too, pay homage to paper, suggesting a collaged field of blank pages. Associations ripple outward, to monochrome painting, minimalist seriality, mid-20th-century design. The sheets of paper that Colson conjures throughout bear no writing, yet they serve as reminders, prompts to provocative self-reflexive questions.
Maloney Fine Art, 2680 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 570-6420, through Dec. 19. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.maloneyfineart.com