Review: Two artists’ work at Couturier Gallery negotiate chance and control

"Pivot," cut-paper collage by Maritta Tapanainen

“Pivot,” cut-paper collage by Maritta Tapanainen

(Maritta Tapanainen / Couturier Gallery)

“Resonance,” a largely engaging show at Couturier, is a double case study in the workings of chance and control, spontaneity and calculation, pairing Alison Keogh and Maritta Tapanainen.

Keogh, based in Santa Fe, N.M., works blind for the first part of her process, flinging cups of diluted sumi ink onto paper with her eyes covered. She then excises what she calls “phrases” from the wide scroll and mounts them on wood panels, some as small as 5 inches square, some several feet across, arranging them in diptychs and grids.

The surfaces are edge-to-edge spill, spatter, veil and drip, records of unscripted performances. One of the strongest pieces is a stack of five small squares for which Keogh used only straight black, pulling out passages that hint at the expressive purity of Zen ink paintings. The works, overall, contain another, less welcome tension--between the raw physicality of their making and the tame, somewhat neutered manner of their presentation.


In her entrancing cut-paper collages, Tapanainen, based in L.A., meticulously constructs fields of fantastic illogic. She uses black-and-white illustrations and diagrams from old reference books, isolating and recombining the botanical, biological, astronomical and mechanical imagery, subverting its didactic clarity.

Even the underlying ground, a mosaic of time-yellowed rectangles, is unstable, but there is also a high degree of order and symmetry in these recent works.

Most are diptychs, each pulsating field of signs exactingly reproduced in an adjacent double. The precision is wild, yielding something akin to careful chaos.

Couturier Gallery, 166 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 933-5557, through May 30. Closed Sunday and Monday.