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Review: Jeffrey Wells at De Soto Gallery

March 6, 2009 | 10:45 am

Wells_2 Jeffrey Wells is a bit of a trickster, interested in the porous boundary between perception and deception. He has a sense of humor reminiscent of Bruce Nauman and a curiosity about visual processing akin to the Light and Space artists of the 1970s. Not everything in his show of prints and video installations at De Soto Gallery (which now occupies Bandini’s former space in Culver City) feels well-realized, but the sensibility throughout is vital and engaging.

In one corner, a video projection makes the walls appear to quiver where they meet. It’s a subtle, sporadic event, just destabilizing enough to heighten attention. Another projection, “Video to Accompany Staring at a White Wall,” has a similar mischievousness, girded by serious inquiry into retinal afterimages.

Each of Wells’ works seems like a staged exercise, a testing of preconceptions against direct experience. If you give yourself over to it, the “Video to Accompany Staring at a White Wall” induces a state at once hypnotic and hyper-alert. At one point, a barely visible pulsing of light assumes the mesmerizing insistence of an external heartbeat.

Wells, who earned his master’s a few years ago from UCLA, now lives in Joshua Tree. It’s an apt locale for a self-described sky-watcher whose work involves sustained observation of phenomena both natural and contrived. His most affecting works are modest, participatory performances, using light, time, optics and always an element of surprise.

-- Leah Ollman

De Soto Gallery, 2635 Fairfax Ave., Culver City, (323) 253-2255, through March 28. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.

Above: Jeffrey Wells' "Mouches Volantes" (2008), mounted giclee print. Credit: De Soto Gallery