If Agnes Martin had been a penmanship teacher who didn't care whether her students followed the rules, her lessons might look like Bart Exposito's new paintings at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.
A great love of line animates "Strange Alphabet." Its 10 variously sized acrylics on canvas articulate Exposito's passion for soft colors, particularly the ways their shifts in tint resonate with one another.
Some hum wonderfully, their delicate pinks, tans and whites creating mini-symphonies you could listen to all day. Others glow with the weathered confidence of old-timers, their faded olives, burnished oranges, sun-bleached blues and yolk yellows providing just the right measure of heft. Too cool to be pushy, their equanimity is not to be messed with.
Playfulness also plays an important role in Exposito's paintings. Made of spare arrangements of lines, some thick, others thin, some ruler-straight, others gracefully curved, each of the Texas-born, Los Angeles-educated, New Mexico-based painter's compositions lures your imagination into action. Their gentle precision is exemplary.
Always extending from the top to the bottom edges of tautly stretched canvases, Exposito's configurations resemble spindly cartoon characters. They could not be more different from the over-pumped superheroes and preposterous villains that appear in big-budget Hollywood productions. The levity of doodles fuels Exposito's scarecrow-style improvisations.
If you squint at the biggest, and let your mind hang loose, you just might see a goose-stepping gander, its loopy lines — and loopier associations — derailing conventional wisdom. As soon as you see one bird, others pop into view, including a grinning chicken, a sprinting swan, an egret darting through a labyrinth of TV antennae and an ostrich whose neck is too short for it to bury its head in the sand.
A grumpy frog can be found in Exposito's "Strange Alphabet." So can several olives, each lounging luxuriously, as if on the beach.
Exposito packs great pleasure into his deliciously efficient paintings. Knowing when less is more and, equally important, when more is more, his painterly penmanship invites endlessly satisfying readings.
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 837-2117, through Aug. 22. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.vielmetter.com