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Art review: Scott Short at Christopher Grimes Gallery

May 28, 2010 |  7:00 am
400.SSH062 What hath Xerox wrought?

Scott Short’s new paintings are both gorgeous and inane, superficial yet sophisticated — in that insular, art-world way that validates exercising even the slightest concept to exhaustion.

They make a striking first impression. Large (all six at Christopher Grimes measure around 7 by 5 feet) and graphically stark in black on white, they read as lunar landscapes or magnifications of crusty tree bark, distillations of textures from the natural world.

The images actually derive from a process that marries the mechanical and the hand-crafted. Short, an American living in France, starts with a piece of ordinary colored construction paper and makes a black and white photocopy of it. He then copies that sheet, and the next and so on, making anywhere from a dozen to several hundred permutations until one of them captivates him. He projects a slide of that final copy onto a primed canvas and meticulously transcribes its pocks and patterns. A short video that condenses and repeats the process in an endless loop brings to mind a time-lapse instructional film about topographical phenomena.

400.SSH065 Short turns copies into originals and invests mindless reproductions with mindful attention and labor, squeezing a lot of cerebral mileage out of a simple conceit. He joins a cadre of thinkers, makers and re-makers (from Walter Benjamin on up through Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince and beyond) who muse on the meaning of authorship and originality, the simultaneity of abstraction and representation, the assignation of value, the porous boundary separating objectivity from subjectivity. In Short’s case, this subtext churns along, developing interest as it goes, and ultimately overshadowing the experience of the paintings, which don’t deliver much past that grand first impression.

– Leah Ollman
Christopher Grimes Gallery, 916 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 587-3373, through June 19. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Both images: Untitled, (green), 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery.