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Gary Lang paintings: Some pulse with life, some miss the target

Gary Lang paintings: Some pulse with life, some miss the target
"Susumus," 2015, by Gary Lang. Acrylic on canvas, 113 inches diameter. (Wilding Cran Gallery)

For decades, it's been easy to get lost in Gary Lang's paintings. Head directly to the back gallery at Wilding Cran Gallery for just such an opportunity.

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"Susumus" (2015), the tondo that hangs there, is immersive and entrancing. More than 9 feet in diameter, its concentric rings of color reverberate, wide to narrow and back again, mint green to peach to grayish blue, then mustard, shamrock green and mauve. The oscillation of warm and cool colors is matched by a sense of pulsing expansion and contraction.

At its simplest, the painting is a hard-edge geometric target. It also suggests a visualization of percussive sound. In effect, in its tug of war between infinity and immediacy, it acts like a mandala.

The painting, and another smaller one like it in the office area, serve as counterpoints to the work in the main gallery. In almost every way, the "Glitterworks" are less-than: less ambitious, less evocative, less promising of transcendence. Six-by-6-inch squares of edge-to-edge paint and glitter, they are not just small but also slight.

One of Gary Lang's "Glitterworks" pieces. a 6-inch square.
One of Gary Lang's "Glitterworks" pieces. a 6-inch square. (Wilding Cran Gallery)

Lang, who lives in Ojai, cut the fabric squares from clothing he wore while working. To the stray brush-swipes and traces of paint that landed there, he added dabs of color, sprinklings of glitter and the occasional sequin or bit of reflective film. Most of the crusty little panels have no central focus or overt pattern. They suggest core samples, excisions from a larger, continuous field.

Lang has framed the pieces smartly in raw Douglas fir, aligning the wood grain into concentric squares that mimic the telescoping, echoing vibrations of the larger ring paintings.

The optical dazzle of his stripe, plaid and circle paintings is dialed down considerably here, but the repetition and accretion that happen outside the frame help. There are 120 of these glittering squares, installed in a long, single row, stacked rows and a grid. The whole reads like a disassembled quilt, one discrete patch neatly neighboring another. Space feels oddly diluted, and time too — flattened, leveled.

These small works span more than 30 years. The quantity attests to a long and steady practice, but the pieces have far less eloquent things to say about the process of their own making than Lang's main bodies of work. The "Glitterworks" are relics of that same practice, but not culminations. More like outtakes, handsomely archived.

Wilding Cran Gallery, 939 S. Santa Fe Ave., L.A. Wednesdays-Sundays, through May 19. (213) 553-9190, www.wildingcran.com

Gary Lang's "Glitterworks" installation at Wilding Cran.
Gary Lang's "Glitterworks" installation at Wilding Cran. (Wilding Cran Gallery)

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