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Art review: F. Scott Hess at Koplin Del Rio

November 10, 2011 |  4:00 pm

F. Scott Hess, "Self-Portrait as a Masterpiece of Creation"
F. Scott Hess’ new paintings at Koplin Del Rio give palpable answers to questions we’ll never know. They suggest allegories of uncertain moral persuasion. They give clear and reasonable form to situations obscure, improbable and deliciously ambiguous. A tsunami-scaled wave crashes into a beachfront house and a young woman greets it with ecstatic abandon. Five ballet dancers heave the waxen bulk of the dead French painter Bouguereau toward an open, upper floor window, as if to toss him out. A young woman, nude among equally ripe raspberry brambles, sucks her thumb and fingers her hair in the manner of a toddler.

Several discernible themes do emerge: aging and generational succession, natural cataclysms, violent upheaval, sexual energy and assorted human vulnerabilities. Among the strongest works are self-portraits, overt acts of exposure that Hess loads with autobiographical details of place and process. In “Self-Portrait as a Masterpiece of Creation,” he stands naked in his studio, facing us and holding a blank panel like a challenging mirror to our eager gaze.

Hess, who has lived and worked in L.A. for nearly three decades, is among the more visually generous painters around. His surfaces glow from within, thanks to his facility with Old Master techniques. His colors ring with vitality, his forms have convincing tactility and texture, and his compositions are taut. He drops multiple clues to his sources and influences — Velasquez, Beckmann, Freud, Rembrandt, Michelangelo — and something of the spicy strangeness of Tooker and even Balthus can be found in the work too. The paintings have verve to spare. Hess will be completing the large title painting, “In Transit,” in the gallery during the run of the show.

-- Leah Ollman

Koplin Del Rio, 6031 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 836-9055, through Dec. 22. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Image: F. Scott Hess, "Self-Portrait as a Masterpiece of Creation." From Koplin Del Rio.