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Review: David Stone at Charlie James Gallery

January 29, 2009 |  1:30 pm

Precarious Twister (State I)

“Unanticipated Despair (Despite Prior Naïve Optimism),” David Stone’s first exhibition with Charlie James Gallery — and that gallery’s first solo show — begins with a deliciously perverse one-liner. It’s a floor sculpture configured to resemble a true-to-scale Twister mat, with red, blue, yellow and green dots indicating the positions for a player’s hands and feet, that happens to be composed of broken glass. The piece calls to mind Robert Smithson’s “Map of Broken Glass,” a treacherous, vaguely topographical mass of shards, but with a playful twist characteristic of Stone’s general approach: considered cleverness articulated with striking visual and conceptual economy.

The price of such economy is that a handful of works seem mostly to skirt the obvious: a series of television stills taken from news coverage of car chases, or a neon piece that reads, “Eventually you will die and be unable to read this.”

The majority, however, are sharp and genially thought-provoking. “Angry Man, Silenced,” for instance, is a still, blown up to poster scale, taken from Peter Finch’s famous “mad as hell” speech in the film “Network,” seen on a television screen with the word “mute” in small red letters across the image. “Lone Onomatopoeia” is a page from a comic book on which everything but the word “BARROOMM” has been whited out. “Lens Cap, Interior,” a roughly 2-by-3-foot print that depicts just what the title suggests, is a photograph of the object that disables the production of a photograph, the surface that periodically blinds the lens to the world.

Several of the show’s most striking works call attention to details one typically opts to overlook, namely those connoting death and depletion: a butterfly smashed on a windshield, the pattern of its wing still visible in the splat; the remains of a dinner in the drain of a sink; or the striking surface of a matchbook, blown up more than 14 feet long and resembling an Abstract Expressionist painting.

The underlying suggestion is the inevitable truth contained rather too literally in the neon piece: Everything passes, everything fades. The key is to be interested in what’s here now, and Stone is nothing if not interested.

-- Holly Myers

Charlie James Gallery, 975 Chung King Road, L.A., (213) 687-0844, through Feb. 7. Closed Sunday through Tuesday.

Photo: "Precarious Twister (State I)" (2008), broken glass, acrylic. Credit: Charlie James Gallery