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Art review: Analia Saban's 'Grayscale' at Thomas Solomon Gallery

April 8, 2011 |  7:00 pm

In an exhibition that is robust and lovely, ruthless and playful, Analia Saban does to painting what forensic technicians on crime-scene TV do to the evidence in their high-tech labs: subject it to state-of-the-art experiments that make it tell the truth. Saban Chair

The Argentina-born, Los Angeles-based painter’s second solo show, at Thomas Solomon Gallery, does not begin with grand notions, abstract ideas or idealized fictions. Instead, the 13 intimately scaled works that make up “Grayscale” start with stuff: physical substances that, in the right combination, become paintings you never tire of scrutinizing.

Saban tests the limits of materials and attentiveness. In one small work, she has partially peeled a layer of dark gray acrylic from its canvas ground. The simple gesture is a sort of clinical striptease that confuses distinctions between pleasure and knowledge, anticipation and delivery.

Two works appear to have actual objects, an apple and a folding chair, affixed to their surfaces. But close inspection reveals that Saban has used paint -- and custom-made rubber molds -- to form surrogate versions of the common items. The line between objects and images blurs, piquing curiosity.

Four monochrome canvases have been burned by lasers digitally programmed to carve 3-D forms from dense plastic blocks. The damaged results record the collision between bodily reality and its virtual surrogate.

Saban Diamond Decant Poly-nylon bags play a part in four experimental paintings. Two are sealed. They contain partially painted canvases submerged in a few quarts of liquid paint, which sloshes around the bag’s bottom and recalls the way pet fish are transported.

In the other two, Saban has attached clear plastic pockets to the lower portions of her canvases. Each is filled to overflowing with a mixture of black and white paint that has dried. These cement-like protrusions make you think of the grayscale as a real scale, a device that records a painting’s weight, in pounds and ounces. Gravity’s inescapable tug and Saban’s light touch collude in the creation of no-nonsense works you must see to believe.

-- David Pagel

Thomas Solomon Gallery, 427 Bernard St., (323) 275-1687, through April 23. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.thomassolomongallery.com.

Images: Top, Analia Saban, "Representation of a Chair"; bottom, "Diamond Decant (Black and White Pigments) With Three Brushstrokes." Credits: Courtesy Thomas Solomon Gallery

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