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Art review: Allison Schulnik at Mark Moore

January 15, 2010 |  6:30 pm

400.Schulnik_Jimmy The cast of characters in Allison Schulnik's messy paintings comes from society's underbelly: hobos, clowns, losers and vermin. Such out-of-luck figures have been favored subjects by artists for several centuries, forming the core of much gritty Realism, dreamy Romanticism and angst-addled Expressionism.

Schulnik is at her best when her gooey paintings tap into that history without coming off as mannered rehashes – perfectly competent compositions that hit all the right notes but do not make their own music. It's a tough task, and the young L.A. artist manages it admirably in her second solo show at Mark Moore Gallery, where the hits outnumber the misses.

Schulnik piles on paint with abandon, slathering it on thickly and vigorously, like nobody's business. She shifts scale like a pro, going from page-size pictures of flower-filled vases to larger-than-life-size portraits and landscapes that measure more than 7-by-11 feet. And she crafts loosely realistic animals, a raccoon and two possum in ceramic and porcelain.

400.Schulnik_HoboWithBird Her best works feel hard-won, struggled over, resolved. "Man With Cats," "Hobo With Bird," "Black Monkeys," "Red Flowers #3" and "Raku Raccoon" make vulnerability, trepidation and doom palpable. These powerfully subjective states correspond to the way her works have been painted: urgently, unself-consciously, even desperately.

In contrast, Schulnik's duds seem to have been tossed off, the result of motions gone through mechanically, without the emotions being awoken.

Despite its self-conscious grubbiness, "Klaus #2" feels like a paint-by-numbers kit; "White Possum" comes off as cutesy; "Rug Girl" tries too hard; and "White Flowers #2" looks fussed over.

 In the back gallery, a stop-action animated video commissioned by the band, Grizzly Bear, strikes just the right note: light-handed and tragic, endearing and heart wrenching, dreamy and unsentimental. It shows Schulnik to be an artist worth watching, whose best work is yet to come.

-- David Pagel

Mark Moore Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, (310) 453-3031, through Feb. 6. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.markmooregallery.com

Images: "Jimmy"(top) and "Hobo With Bird." Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer.

Comments () | Archives (2)

I'd like to see a little more foundation to deepen her work, but there is a fun creepy thing going on. I don't find anything cutesy or paint by numbers in her work…
In a more pointed critique, spending more time with traditional drawing and painting would do her a world of good, but of course critics cringe at putting any value in foundation art skills. I'd encourage her to do more sculpture, consider lighting that sculpture and painting from it, that would help her see form and structure better and lead to more discoveries to enrich her approach.

Just saw it, not bad at all. Sort of an Ensor meets Mr Bill mentality, especially the video. She is limited with the frontalization of the faces no matter the pose, she needs to work on different angle solutions rather than the same ole frontal twin droopy oozing eyeball trick. It works half the time, but completley forced the others. Takes away from some interesting work.

a rather good review, I was gonna give credit to CK, but no authorship is given, Whoever did it was very good at actually Presenting the work, rather than explaining it to death, when most are so limited as to be worth half a paragraph. Real art is purely visual, this has antededents, and well done. Props to both artist and reviewer.


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