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Entertainment & Arts

Review: Joanne Greenbaum’s sculptures find poignancy in imperfection

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Joanne Greenbaum, “Untitled,” 2019.
(Marten Elder / Richard Telles Fine Art)

Joanne Greenbaum looks like she’s having a lot of fun at Richard Telles, where her paintings and sculptures possess an energetic whimsy that reflects their improvised creation.

The paintings in particular record the wanderings of the mind and the confidence to engage in this intuitive process, but you’re left wondering what it all means. Maybe nothing.

The paintings (all untitled) have a freewheeling, scribble-scrabble quality, enhanced by Greenbaum’s use of markers in addition to paint. One features a center filled with abstract doodles edged in black and overlaid with an off-kilter teal grid that segments the canvas like an aerial view of an Old World city.

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Joanne Greenbaum, “Untitled,” 2017
(Marten Elder / Richard Telles Fine Art)
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Another depicts a dark purple, centrifugal mass on a neon yellow ground, adorned with multicolored stripes, dashes and more doodles. It reminded me of a flag, if your mascot were a crazed amoeba.

Because they are so unmoored, the paintings invite free association. This is fun, but ultimately, I wish there were something more to hang on to.

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Joanne Greenbaum, “Untitled,” 2018.
(Marten Elder / Richard Telles Fine Art)

More intriguing is a low plinth bearing nine, small, somewhat scatological sculptures. Hand-built from various types of clay and colored matte or shiny black, some look like failed vessels, evoking for me many a disappointment at the pottery wheel. Others are more architectural and rectilinear, like tiny, jagged towers.

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Joanne Greenbaum, installation view, Richard Telles Fine Art, 2019
(Marten Elder / Richard Telles Fine Art)
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Joanne Greenbaum, “Untitled,” 2018
(Marten Elder / Richard Telles Fine Art)

They are all lumpy and modest, warped and slumping, involuted like black fungus or comically priapic. They have personality; their imperfections make them sympathetic. Unified in black, they feel less random than the paintings, as if Greenbaum were trying to work something out in an iterative fashion. The vessel-like ones are especially sad, like failed little loving cups. They are all the more poignant for aspiring to, but not achieving, that familiar, heroic form.

Richard Telles, 7380 Beverly Blvd., L.A. Tuesdays-Saturdays through May 25. (323) 985-5578, tellesfineart.com

See all of our latest arts news and reviews at latimes.com/arts.


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