Review: Bob Law drawings find poignancy in simplicity


The six paintings and 12 drawings in “Bob Law: 1959-2001” take visitors to the simplest of times and the most basic of places: right here and right now.

That’s the beauty of the British minimalist’s works at Marc Selwyn Fine Art in Beverly Hills. The art bets everything on your capacity to understand the rudimentary moves that Law (1934-2004) made when he created them.

If you’re looking for bells and whistles you’ll be disappointed. The same goes for nuance, elaboration, refinement and any kind of gussied up fussiness.

All but two of Law’s works in the exhibition are black and white. And the palette of those two outliers is limited to the primaries: blocks of red, blue and yellow applied with all the finesse of a kid filling in a coloring book.

Bob Law's "Drawing 17.5.59," 1959, pencil on paper, 10 by 14 inches. (Marc Selqyn Fine Art)

Quiet, even mute, Law’s pointblank art still conveys intense convictions and the emotions that accompany them. All about possibility, his works are hopeful — not quite desperately so, but far from confident about their prospects.

The four drawings from the 1950s were made with blunt pencils on plain sheets of paper. Yet they manage to suggest urban landscapes whose loveliness is all the more poignant for being fugitive.

Law’s three drawings from the ’60s are sketchier and less ham-fisted. Less like maps or diagrams, they are more pictorial. But you’d never mistake their Spartan contours for fully rendered depictions.

In eight works on canvas and paper from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Law leaves the lion’s share of each piece wide open or covers it completely, either by scribbling with a pencil or painting so many layers of deep blue enamel atop one another that their darkness matches that of a starless night sky in the middle of nowhere.

The three remaining works, from the last decade of Law’s life, are what he called “Castles,” horizontally oriented rectangles stacked in three layers — biggest on the bottom, smallest on top. Their primary colors are always configured differently.

Humble and potent, Law’s art stuck out like a sore thumb when he made it in England. It still does so today, in Los Angeles and on the international exhibition circuit.

Sometimes context doesn’t matter as much as what an artist gets down on paper and canvas. Law’s art lives in the moment — and invites us to try to.

Marc Selwyn Fine Art, 9953 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Through Sept. 10; closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 277-9953,

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