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Art review: Adrian Saxe at Frank Lloyd Gallery

December 15, 2011 |  4:30 pm

Adrian Saxe, "Welcome Stranger"
The goofy exuberance and try-anything giddiness for which Adrian Saxe is best known are nowhere to be found in his exhibition at Frank Lloyd Gallery, which pairs four pieces Saxe made in 1968 with 10 works from 2011. The L.A. artist’s first solo show in seven years replaces the out-of-whack gracefulness, acrobatic optimism and I-can-do-anything glee of his works from the last few decades with a sense of mortality richly seasoned by a deep appreciation of the absurd twists and turns that define modern life.

Over-the-top virtuosity is still essential to Saxe’s gorgeously glazed and fantastically formed vessels, which have so little in common with utilitarian pots and vases that they might as well be from another planet — one inhabited by a civilization more noble and less narcissistic than ours.

Like his four sturdy works from 1968, Saxe’s new sculptures are blunt — not really rugged but far less frilly than the post-modern Baroque extravaganzas that had become his trademark. Often stubborn, sometimes ugly and always grounded in the vulnerability of the flesh, they insist that the time for fussing over details is long gone and that it may be too late to do much that matters.

The fatalism embraced by Saxe’s mutant mélanges is liberating. It strips illusions from life and gets down to the naked basics of existence. Humor comes through loud and clear as a love of funny business makes despair look shortsighted.

Like trophies for achievements rarely celebrated by a culture obsessed with instantaneous communication (if not gratification), Saxe’s lumpy sculptures in “GRIN: Genetic Robotic Information Nano (Technologies)” are a slow burn, their pleasures profound and well worth the wait.

-- David Pagel

Frank Lloyd Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, (310) 264-3866, through Jan. 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.franklloyd.com

Image: Adrian Saxe, "Welcome Stranger," 2011. Credit: From Frank Lloyd Gallery

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