Art review: Natalie Frank makes a big, riveting mess at Acme

Raw talent, restless energy and the sense that something has gone very wrong run every which way in Natalie Frank’s new paintings, which turn themselves inside out with such wicked swiftness that it’s hard to know up from down, good from bad, us from them.

The New York painter is no purist. Titled “The Scene of a Disappearance,” her first solo show in Los Angeles, at Acme, is a big messy mix of people and beasts, their limbs, organs and torsos rearranged in ways that rival Picasso’s wildest paintings while capturing the grisliness of crime-scene TV.

Frank slices and dices like a food processor, chopping Francis Bacon’s ghoulish humans and Lucian Freud’s meaty people into bite-size chunks she then cooks into dishes that look delicious from a distance but monstrous up close. Never letting good manners get in the way of a sucker punch, Frank’s paintings lock repulsion and lust in an embrace that rips logic to ribbons.

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Genres, such as still life, portraiture and landscape, do not collide so much as they run rampant, creating mongrel offspring whose DNA is more twisted than their sources.

Playing even faster and more furiously with materials, Frank tears pastels and watercolors into jagged shapes, pastes them onto paintings well on way to completion and then adds more brush strokes, colors and forms to her variously scaled (and variously shaped) panels.

Compositionally, her paintings consist of deliberately engineered detours within detours within detours. To look at one is to be forced to change directions, double back and circle around, again and again, until you are lost. In the end, it’s impossible to say what part of the painting came first, much less to know where it’s going and what it all might mean.

Meaning is not something Frank is especially interested in. As an idea, it’s too bookish and out of touch to compete with what really matters: the charged ups and downs of urgent experience as viewers scramble to keep up with her art’s dizzying twists and turns.

Acme, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 857-5942, through Nov. 16. Closed Sundays and Mondays.


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