Chris Pate: Fly-Over
4 October through 8 November 2008
At Jail Gallery, Los Angeles
By Shana Nys Dambrot
Peeling back from the lyrical at the last minute, another New York piece cites Warhol’s famous dollar signs and chalk outlines, interlaid with squares of primary color, red, yellow, green, with a bit of Mondrian jazz, evoking suicide jumpers, and emitting an energy of panic perhaps unintended but certainly enhanced by accidents of timing, by the recent Wall Street crisis. Still, despite all that noise, it’s amazing how much it looks like a picture of New York City, not a map of it, with the red lines of major roadways embedded the eerily flesh-tinted landmasses looking for all the world like living tissue in the exposed core of the composition, encircled by peril. Meanwhile, the purported favorite of all the west coast literary types (including this author) was not the sexed-up, seductive, earthquake and movie star monument (though that was a sexy piece) but rather the deceptively straightforward Los Angeles map with nothing but pencil lines drawing modifying it. Its central map of LA is strangely monochrome, even subtle, drawn in that kind blueprint slate tone that’s both textured and cold. This pristine chart is crisscrossed by half a dozen loosely geometrical shapes, arcs mostly, of hurried, frantic, lines, not in webs but in psychotic rainbows. Besides being elegant and expressive, this image perfectly both highlights and obscures and the experience of traversing LA’s highways and byways, elevating it to a formal, economic exercise tracking the energy of a people, rendering it witty and rather beautiful, in a narrative mirror to Abstract Expressionism that transcends the literal and goes beyond the metaphor to become, in its own right, that which it also represents. These maps are not of the place, they are the place; not pointing a way to a place, but embodying the very destination itself.
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Whitehot Magazine, KCET’s Artbound, Flaunt, Fabrik, Art and Cake, Artillery, Palm Springs Life, Riot Material, West Hollywood Lifestyle, Jenkem, and Porter & Sail. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and exhibition catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
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