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Review: Jim Isermann at Richard Telles Fine Art

May 8, 2009 | 11:00 am

Isermann Over the last 25 years, Jim Isermann has shown himself to be a one-man factory and an impressively productive, phenomenally adaptive one at that.

Patiently churning out one-of-a-kind rugs, chairs, lamps, stained-glass windows and hand-woven fabrics, as well as paintings, sculptures, vacuum-formed wall-coverings and big public projects, the Palm Springs-based artist has single-handedly transformed the landscape of contemporary art in California.

His four new paintings at Richard Telles Fine Art flaunt his genius for transforming logical systems into gorgeous designs that are smart and accessible.

All are 4-foot-square canvases stretched over panels and covered with many coats of shiny acrylic latex. Two hang the regular way: their edges parallel and perpendicular to the floor and ceiling. The other two are diamonds, their corners pointing up, down, left and right.

The simplest of the four is a two-color square, its rows and columns of nesting orange and blue squares twisting, and shrinking or growing, as they move across the canvas. Along a diagonal line that cuts from upper left to lower right, the increasingly warped squares are so compressed that they form distended diamonds. More important, they make you feel, in your gut, that you’re looking at a rip, a glitch or some strange mutation in the space-time continuum. It is as if Isermann’s neatly arranged painting embodies one of those thrilling moments when things turn into their opposites — when, for example, a straight line curves, flatness opens onto deep space, and logic turns into poetry.

The two diamond paintings are even more subtly sophisticated. In each, Isermann doubles the number of colors he uses, intensifies the visual high jinks and amplifies the shift from rigid, architectural grid to fluid curves and gently bent spaces. Squares become diamonds and grids undulate gracefully.

The fourth painting, which is also the most recent, takes everything to the next level. Nearly leaving logic in the dust, its hot colors and fractured pattern break space into renegade fragments that your mind can hold together if you concentrate, despite your eyes’ tendency to see its components as distinct, incompatible entities.

In a sense, all of Isermann’s works do the impossible — turn rigorous systems into opportunities for freewheeling improvisation. Think of him as a Minimalist in love with decoration or a Conceptual artist whose work begins with the body, embraces the mind and takes both to sublime heights.

-- David Pagel

Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 965-5578, through May 16. Closed Sundays and Mondays. 

Above: "Untitled." Credit: Richard Telles Fine Art, copyright Fredrik Nilsen