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Energy and emotion in Rachelle Sawatsky's strong show at China Art Objects

Energy and emotion in Rachelle Sawatsky's strong show at China Art Objects
Rachelle Sawatsky's paintings on ceramic, on view at China Art Objects in Los Angeles. (China Art Objects)

Souls are at play — and at stake — in Rachelle Sawatsky's intensely charged new paintings at China Art Objects Galleries in Los Angeles.

"Reincarnation Clash," the title piece, features a downed airplane, one wing spewing hot flames and the fuselage emitting images of assorted creatures (cats, marsupials, a feline-human hybrid) on tendril-tethered thought balloons. Are these the souls of the beings on board, transforming into the shapes of their next lives?

In another emotionally jarring work, a clay-red beast standing on the bank of a violet sea snarls down at two grimacing skeletons linked by a tornado twist of hair.

"The Animal Lover's Guide to Tragedy/The Emotional Person's Guide to Plot," painting by Rachelle Sawatsky at China Art Objects.
"The Animal Lover's Guide to Tragedy/The Emotional Person's Guide to Plot," painting by Rachelle Sawatsky at China Art Objects. (China Art Objects)

The energy within these paintings is taut; their scope feels mythic. An animistic sense of interconnection permeates the work, multiplicity within singular selves a given. Shades of James Ensor creep in, echoes of Nancy Jackson.

Interspersed among the paintings, mounted high and low across the walls, are 15 sprightly ceramic pieces. Each looks roughly like an asterisk, a 2.5-inch-thick exuberance with a surface (and sometimes sides as well) painted, glazed and inked with vibrant color and loosely geometric patterns. Washes of red and indigo overlap like off-register plaids. Matte offsets glossy. Emerald, amber, lipstick and gold stain and streak the surfaces, which vary between paper-smooth, clay-cracked and faintly impressed with a fabric weave. Their quirky materiality bears little relation to the more psychically demanding paintings they neighbor, but in both bodies of work, the L.A.-based Sawatsky projects a fresh vigorous voice.

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China Art Objects Galleries, 6086 Comey Ave., Los Angeles. Through July 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays.  (323) 965-2264, www.chinaartobjects.com.

Follow The Times arts team @culturemonster.

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