Review: Utopia and dystopia vie in Robert Minervini landscapes

Robert Minervini paints landscapes of disappointment, shot through with irrepressible promise. Structures are half-built, either rising or abandoned. The blank stares of empty billboards advertise a kind of existential vacancy, while twining vines spread new life.

In his recent work at Marine Contemporary (the gallery’s final show in its current location), the San Francisco-based painter straddles the dystopian and utopian, invoking a built environment that encompasses simultaneity and contradiction.

Much of the strength of the work derives from oppositions within it--the dueling senses of hope and despair, and stylistic disjunctions that turn every surface into a lively wrestling match. A straight-ahead realism jostles with graffiti-like drips and sprayed stencilings, crisp graphics and loose, painterly collaged bits. Descriptive representation is overlaid by fragmented, abstract grids. Sallow hues counter neon exuberance. Order vies with decay.


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Nine of the 11 paintings on view form a sequence, “Until Tomorrow Comes,” which begins with dawn breaking brightly over a post-apocalyptic flood plain, and closes with the moon gleaming over a pair of sterile, self-important office buildings.

Minervini’s work gives the eye much to feed upon, while prompting essential questions: What constitutes progress? Which architectural forms manifest our civilized best, and which our self-crafted demise? Whose persistence will win out--nature’s or culture’s? Are these romantic views backward or forward?


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Marine Contemporary, 1733-A Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 399-0294, through Jan. 25. Closed Sunday and Monday.