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Art review: Steve Roden at Susanne Vielmetter

April 1, 2011 |  6:30 am

Roden_399_ThirdStone_hires Steve Roden has an active mind, a gentle soul and a rigorously fluid aesthetic.

An expansive array of experiences, stimuli and systems feed into his work, but without an understanding of those influences or resonances, the work itself can feel muddled, esoteric, hermetically sealed. It says something that the small pamphlet the Los Angeles-based artist published to accompany his show at Susanne Vielmetter is at least as interesting as the works on view.

The paintings, sculptures, collages and films vary widely in terms of visual appeal. Roden revels in a certain humility and awkwardness of form. This brings vibrancy to some work but renders others leaden.

Among the most intriguing pieces are two short, 16-millimeter films, “striations (stones and clouds),” projected side-by-side. The actions performed within appear like excerpts from a catalog of possibilities built around the variables of stone, sound, and abstract shapes. Roden wraps paper around a stone and makes a rubbing of its striated surface; taps the underside of a cymbal with a stone; claps two stones together; runs a bow across a rough stone, shredding the strings. Dots and stripes of colored ink drawn onto the film (reminiscent of the early abstract films of Oskar Fischinger) provide a lyrical accompaniment to these silent enactments of sound.

At the other extreme, Roden’s five painted plaster and cardboard sculptures are merely clumsy and mute. His paintings occupy a nebulous middle ground. While passages of stripes and other patterns within them radiate with fresh energy and spontaneity, too often there’s more poetry in Roden’s process — a dance between instinct and intellect — than in the outcome.

-- Leah Ollman

Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 837-2117, through April 23. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Image: Steve Roden, "Third Stone." Credit: Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects