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Art Review: 'Peter Sims: New and Recent Paintings' at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art

June 30, 2011 |  8:00 pm

Before formalism went out of fashion in the early 1960s, painting was supposed to be all about color, shape and texture. People paid lots of attention to the first two features, leaving the third as an afterthought.

Sims Gobelin2

In the early 1990s, when social context was all the rage, race, sex and class were the trinity of terms in which art was discussed. And once again, the third component played second fiddle to the first two, which dominated the discourse.

Texture and working-class physicality take potent form in Peter Sims’ new paintings. Too loopy and goofy to care about looking smart, these wonderfully disheveled and sublimely flat-footed abstractions show that it’s possible to be smart about history without making art that looks like it’s stuck in the past. Both playful and labor-intensive, the 57-year-old’s panels look like they come from the future.

At Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, “Peter Sims: New and Recent Paintings,” consists of 10 pieces, all made over the last eight years. It’s his first solo show.

Sims XylophoneSims works slowly, smoothly slathering on various mixtures of homemade acrylics with wide palette knives, letting them dry and then tidily applying more — or jumping the gun and letting layers run together, like partially controlled meltdowns.

The earliest works, like “Cookie,” “Rizla” and “The Spine is a Xylophone,” are crisp and vivid, their basic geometric shapes given heft and precision by the way Sims has beveled their edges and locked them together, framing big chunks of luscious color with solid slabs of dazzling accents.

The most recent works, like “Gobelin,” “Gobelin No. 2” and “Gobelin No. 3,” are more complex and nuanced yet no less bold. Each serpentine landscape and zigzagged composition consists of many eccentrically tinted sections, each made up of layer upon layer of sculpted stripes, dots and dashes of similarly shaded pigments or dynamic contrasts.

Sims combines deliciously tinted tertiaries — lovely butterscotch, creamy eggplant and the most ravishing taupe I have ever seen — with so much aplomb that it’s impossible not to think of him as a virtuoso colorist. But what he does with texture, creating complex geographies that are a pleasure to see in the flesh, makes coining the term “texturalist” seem perfectly reasonable.

-- David Pagel

Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, 8568 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (310) 815-1100, through July 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

 Images, from top: Peter Sims, "Gobelin No. 2," "The Spine is a Xylophone." Credit:  Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art