Alexander Yulish: Out of Order
ACE Gallery, Los Angeles
May 13 - July 16, 2017
By SHANA NYS DAMBROT, JUN. 2017
There is a lot going on in Alexander Yulish’s large- and larger-scale paintings. Which is to say: quite a lot is actually happening right there inside them. People and environments of nature and architecture are being constructed, recognizable reality is being dismantled, and energy is replacing likeness in a polyglot portraiture that is both dense and roomy. Their empathetic acrylic vibrato recounts what actions are being taken toward a hard-won balance; what problems of image, color, and space are being solved in pursuit of a unified field of vision, consciousness, and action. He deploys in this exercise an extensive inventory of brushstrokes -- serpentine staccatos, spray-painted spots and lines, heavy brush, dry brush, palette knife, nail, impasto, scrape, wash, block, filigree, dab, punch, sweep, trace, aura, stack, drip, fold, smear, pile. Believe it or not, Yulish is working toward minimalism.
The roughly chronological installation of 20-ish works in the show bear witness to a period of studio time in which Yulish was paying radical attention to the physical effect of every single gesture in the construction of these scenes. From a lush tangle Yulish engineered the increasing expansion of empty pictorial space at the heart of them. He slowly eschewed his figures’ trappings in favor of an auric, abstractionist technique of layered, variegated yet pure color for building that space. The rather breezy pictorial character of the culminating works, with their focus on single figures in luminous spaces, is the result of that arc, and the best hint at the artist’s future near-stylistic direction.
Emotionally and optically compelling as the presentation it is, it’s also fair to say this is a transitional collection. The exhibition candidly presents itself for discourse and consideration, and a rather intimate view of what the artist has been going through since last we heard from him; what terrain he has been developing, what has been on his mind, whether he has been working with this wrist, elbow, or shoulder. To what degree he may have become obsessed with Francis Bacon or Joan Mitchell; he also is occupied with spatial dynamics of color theory, such as how yellow makes a true blue truer, or a pink lunges past black to greet the eye, or a soft edge activates the illusion of recession -- namely, how a familiar world can be rendered in an artificial palette that still feels like nature. “Out of Order” is an eloquent conversation about how an artist thinks about paint, and all are invited to witness the argument in narrative form, room by room. WM
NOTE: This show coincides with the downstairs project space hosting an exhibition of sensitively materialist abstract clay totems by Yulish’s mother, Barbara Pearlman.
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 Flaunt, Art and Cake, Artillery, and Palm Springs Life.
She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and 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 is a member of ArtTable and the LA Press Club, and 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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