George Lawson has so perfected the stagecraft of his new Potrero Flats gallery as to make almost anything he hangs in it look good.
Yet I think the abstract work of Los Angeles painter Jacob Melchi would easily stand the test of transplantation to less inviting settings.
At a moment when artworks of bullying size and aggressiveness dominate many galleries, art fairs and auction rooms, Melchi works at intimate scale with no sense of abbreviation or mutedness.
A picture such as "Eclipse (Warm)" (2013) makes an ingratiating impression at a distance. But only a close look reveals how much Melchi cares about detail. Avoiding preciousness, he makes the tooth of his coarse linen working surface an active ingredient in the work, rather than an inert platform.
Viewing this and most of the other paintings here obliquely and up close reveals a grid in the brushstrokes of the topmost color. It produces a vibration more easily felt after it is seen, but felt in any case.
The interplay between top layers and underpainting in a picture may be quite calculated, but it maintains a feeling of relaxed improvisation.
Allusions also seem to arise unbidden, to the emotional tropics of David Hockney's early Los Angeles work, for example, or to the graceful stutter of the late Raoul De Keyser's art in Melchi's "Tilted" (2013) and others.
Like Pederson's work, though in different terms, Melchi's sustains an argument that the value of scrutiny must be felt as much as seen.
SMC Emeritus College Gallery is pleased to present Katy Crowe and Jacob Melchi.
Though representing different generations, Los Angeles based artists Crowe and Melchi utilize similar methodologies when constructing paintings. Both have committed to strategies involving an intertwining of aesthetics sourced from geometric abstraction, symbolism, pop graphics, and process-based painting. For Crowe and for Melchi repetitive mark-making and layering processes often form patterns that reemerge in multiple works, sometimes as pronounced structures that determine the “architecture” of a composition, and sometimes as distant traces that only become evident under closer inspection. Both artists have total control of their craft, and though there is some small degree of preciousness, neither practice is locked into the finish-fetish of hard-edged geometric abstraction. In fact, many of the marks made by these two artists might be best described as geometric yet quirky, funny, with none of the self-important bravado of modern abstraction. They are abstraction that has gone through pop and conceptual histories, and been repackaged as something more self-aware, aware of itself as a container for symbols, and as a symbol of itself. While historic abstraction (that of the modern avant garde), distanced itself from symbolism and pop culture, contemporary painters Crowe and Melchi have the benefit of critical distance, enough to allow symbolist references from anything from architecture to baseball for Melchi, and weavings to black widows for Crowe. However, both pop-influenced practices come back around through a truly painterly commitment to process and materials.