LA Weekly
October 10, 2007

“Composition Lessons”

San Francisco painter William Swanson seems to belong to that rapidly expanding roster of “digital landscape painters” — artists whose renditions of objects in space are grounded in the graphic language of the computer screen, and whose work is suffused with architectural tropes (right down to the paste-ins). But Swanson’s painting, little reliant on such tropes, always has been a visual and conceptual cut above this crowd. Although trained in architecture, Swanson’s approach addresses issues of abstract painting as well as of spatial rendition. Indeed, the most engaging aspect of these vertiginous acrylics on panel is the disposition of their forms and colors and the oddly vibrant pictoriality this disposition imparts. Swanson gets at least as much from Kandinsky and Klee as he does from Gehry and Google, and in mediating between classic modernist practice and the unmoored perspectives of computer rendering he finds a compellingly dynamic ambivalence, a “neo-modernist” understanding of space and perception. An installation in the back room, in which a glimpse of a peculiar slice of nature hides amid what seem like file cabinets disappearing into another dimension, comes off as a physical realization of this understanding.

Swanson’s curious sense of composition recurs in the assemblages of local sculptor – well, bricoleuse – Alexis Weidig, who delights in creating not–quite–non sequiturs out of superimposed objects and sending their components trailing off into space or across the supporting wall. Weidig’s elements display the same sense of attraction/repulsion that gives Swanson’s work its respiring centrifugal/centripetal rhythm. She is rather more pointed in her subject matter, however, compiling utilitarian objects and kitschy gewgaws into tableaux radiant with almost Kienholzian spectacle. Driving her latest assemblages is Weidig’s reconsideration of her Albanian Orthodox heritage, with its opulent, theatrical shows of reverence. That reverence is not necessarily confined to church, but might be found in, say, her grandmother’s figurine-bedecked home. Weidig extends and elaborates upon the naïf rococo of such domestic religiosity to the point where theology submerges into topology, and a glorious time is had by all faiths. William Swanson at Walter Maciel, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; thru Oct. 13. (310) 839-1840. Alexis Weidig at Overtones, 11306 Venice Blvd., Thur.-Sat., noon-6 p.m.; thru Oct. 20. (310) 915-0346

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