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Art review: Tom Wudl at L.A. Louver Gallery

November 20, 2009 |  9:30 am

400.Waking Some artists work with their ears to the ground, listening to the buzz to try to make their works relevant. Others pay no attention to external interruptions, concentrating instead on the voices in their heads. That's what Tom Wudl does. His paintings, drawings and prints describe a world so dense with detail that it's a treat to visit, a delight to contemplate and a joy to know.

 At L.A. Louver Gallery, Wudl's first solo show in four years features 15 intimate works on paper and canvas. Most measure no more than 4 or 5 inches on a side.

Only one is bigger than a sheet of notebook paper. It's a fanciful, multi-eyed portrait of Wudl's teenage son, and its dreamy virtuosity is intoxicating. The rest of the works in "Specimens From the Flowerbank World" are inspired by the Flower Ornament Sutra, a revered Huayan Buddhist scripture.

Many depict solitary roses, their soft pink petals and vivid blue grounds made up of tiny club motifs, like those found on playing cards. Glistening jewels, floating eyeballs and other types of flowers also appear, as if orbiting a central rose or simply floating before the vastness of infinity, which is also abuzz with Wudl's ubiquitous clubs.

Every work is exquisite, so fantastically rendered and precisely crafted that many seem to have been made with the aid of a microscope. But none are fussy, precious or breathless. That's the magic of Wudl's art. He manages to make intense concentration and laser-sharp focus look relaxed, not quite casual but serene and welcoming.

Laurel and Hardy even appear in one drawing, adding just the right touch of comic relief at just the right moment. Unlike much art based in painstaking devotion, Wudl's never gets portentous or overzealous. Its vitality is mature and seasoned, a pleasure to breathe in and be in the company of.

– David Pagel

L.A. Louver Gallery, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-4955, through Dec. 31. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.lalouver.com

Image: "Waking." Credit: from L.A. Louver Gallery.

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