Two artists’ work exhibited in side-by-side spaces at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery inspires us to see and know more than we’d see and know if we were viewing each artist’s creations separately. The show “Julia Haft-Candell/Suzan Frecon” is magical and gratifying, its back-to-basics title belying the sophistication of everything in it.
Frecon (born 1941) is a New York painter who works on paper, making abstract compositions that are intimate and sensual, tough and understated, taut and expansive. Haft-Candell (born 1982) is a Los Angeles sculptor who works with clay, making figurative forms that are innocent and physical, playful and primitive, gritty and transcendent.
Although Frecon’s six small drawings are installed in the first gallery and Haft-Candell’s nine hefty sculptures in the second, it doesn’t matter where you begin. You end up going forth and back between the two rooms, following your own path, at your own pace.
Haft-Candell’s sculptures make Frecon’s works on paper look weighty, their patiently painted shapes taking on greater sculptural solidity than their intimate dimensions suggest. And Frecon’s palette — rusty reds, midnight blues and deep forest greens — draws out the gentle shifts in Haft-Candell’s glazes, revealing their surfaces to be covered with an infinite range of colors, from milky white to deep-space black and beach-sand tan to frothy blue.
Similarly, the scraggy textures and furrowed surfaces of Haft-Candell’s ceramics attune you to the little wrinkles that have puckered the once-wet surfaces of Frecon’s paintings on paper. In turn, those organic accidents alert you to the sheen of each sheet of paper she has used. One is crisp and clean, like freshly starched sheets. Another resembles a hand towel torn from a public dispenser. And a couple are so thick they call to mind tree bark, wood shavings, even veneer. Each type of paper interacts differently with the paints Frecon has layered atop it, creating more depth and presence than immediately meets the eye.
Similar subtleties animate Haft-Candell’s sculptures. Many recall common bodily experiences, like kneading dough when it’s too wet and gets stuck between your fingers. Or slipping your hand into a well-worn catcher’s mitt and smacking it with your fist. Or using your hand to cast a shadow whose silhouette resembles an animal. Or simply interlinking your fingers with those of someone you love.
That gesture takes larger-than-lifesize form in Haft-Candell’s “Interlocking Arch.” But it also describes how the two artists’ bodies of work function as one, cooperating and collaborating while leaving each free to be itself.
Parrasch Heijnen Gallery, 1326 S. Boyle Ave., L.A. Tuesdays-Saturdays, through May 11. (323) 943-9373, www.parraschheijnen.com