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Review: Sush Machida Gaikotsu at Western Project

January 15, 2009 |  1:30 pm


Sush Machida Gaikotsu has emptied his mural-scale paintings of substance, eliminating everything except the contours of frothy waves and the silhouettes of puffy clouds from panels that have been spray-painted shimmering silver, creamy white or velvety black. It’s a rare instance of less-is-more magic, when a strictly limited number of judicious decisions intensifies the effect of the whole. Pop art never looked more scorchingly gorgeous or wickedly Zen.

In two of the Japan-born, Las Vegas-based painter’s five pictures at Western Project, the metallic backgrounds fade to gray or blue, like the skies in Ed Ruscha’s famous paintings of the Hollywood sign. The grounds of the other three are monochromatic, but their colors change as you move around them, the metallic surfaces reflecting and absorbing light so that they sometimes appear to be the lightest of dove grays and at others as dark as dusk, well after sunset.

All of the colors Gaikotsu uses are confined to the serpentine lines that describe the sea’s turbulent surface and the sky’s fluffy clouds. They are doozies and come in a rainbow of sizzling tints, including supercharged fuchsia, dazzling azure, anti-freeze green and screaming yellow. Imagine a coloring book in which the black outlines have been replaced with a Day-Glo palette and you’ll have an idea of the fresh, uncluttered vitality of Gaikotsu’s crisp paintings.

The four that cover the four walls of the boxy gallery envelop visitors in a wraparound world of sensual abandon, where water dances and clouds drift to their own dreamy rhythms.

— David Pagel

Western Project, 3830 Main St., Culver City, (310) 838-0609, through Feb. 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: Sush Machida Gaikotsu's "Glamo" (2008), acrylic on wood panels. Credit: Western Project