New paintings by British-born artist Gary Hume, who works in upstate New York, continue his long-standing use of high-gloss enamel paints to create flat, two-dimensional shapes, sometimes figurative and sometimes not, that seem strangely corporeal.
Sculptures — notably shaped like wobbly wheels — attempt to reverse the equation: Objects stand in space while appearing oddly flat, although the visual conundrum is not as absorbing as it is in the paintings.
At Matthew Marks Gallery, Hume’s first Los Angeles solo exhibition in more than 25 years features five new paintings and two new sculptures, plus four older works. The most absorbing are roughly 12 feet wide and 4 feet high, horizontal fields painted on thin sheets of paper mounted inside shadow-box frames of the artist’s design. The images are abstract — keyhole-like shapes that lock together sideways — confounding any spatial expansiveness that the juxtaposition of colors might produce.
Enamel paint, heavy but light-reflective, causes the paper to crinkle as it dries. So the paintings’ surface flatness is confounded, visually and physically, while the shadow box emphasizes the materiality of otherwise flimsy paper. Hume’s paintings are like impossibly permeable membranes between two and three dimensions.
“Water,” all turquoise ripples; “Beach,” an array of mostly pink, orange and green candy-colors against bright blue; “Shadows,” which clouds the scene; and, “Flotsam,” a dense, nearly monochrome purple that reads as brown or black depending on how close a viewer gets, all unlock your mind and let it drift.
One place it goes is to the tension between matter and consciousness, which has vexed philosophers at least since Aristotle. Rarely is the dilemma as lovely as this.