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Review: Jason Yates at Circus Gallery

June 12, 2009 | 11:00 am

Yates01 If there’s such a thing as indie rock, can there be such a thing as indie rock art? Jason Yates’ neo-psychedelic posters of freak-show adolescent overload — individually decorated with enough ink, puff balls, glitter and decorative stickers that, sometimes, the residue slides off the paper and down the wall to puddle on the floor — offer evidence to an answer in the affirmative.

To what effect, it is hard to say. On the mezzanine of Circus Gallery, the posters hang adjacent to a hooked-rug portrait of bug-eyed, top-hatted, 1970s blues-rocker Captain Beefheart — a.k.a Don Van Vliet, 1980s Neo-Expressionist painter. The rug possesses a suitable weirdness lacking in the posters, but neither is as captivating as the far more conventional paintings downstairs in the main gallery.

Most of these are two-panel works, including one that is three-dimensional and free-standing. They start with clusters of parallel strokes reminiscent of Jasper Johns’ hatch paintings from the ’70s. Yates’ are drawn in ink (typically red, white or black), and they don’t appear to be arranged in repetitive patterns or in mirror images from one panel to the other. (Two works have the pattern etched into mirror.) The canvas is cut in scores of scalloped shapes, curled away from the surface and held out from it by a rod glued inside. These flaps are backed with flat color or metallic Mylar in silver or gold, as are the newly exposed surfaces underneath.

These maneuvers complicate the visual appeal, adding unexpected flashes of reflected internal light as you move in front of the paintings. (In the mirrored works, the pattern is unexpectedly reflected back into receding space.) Yates also stops the scalloped hatching nearly a foot from the bottom edge of the large paintings, giving a hip design the old-fashioned look of theatrical curtains.

What’s most attractive about these works is their obsessiveness — a hard-core focus on numb repetition that, in one corner, jumps off the paintings and onto the gallery’s stairway wall, which sports its own floor-to-ceiling pattern of laboriously drawn, striped zigzags. Johns once said the hatch pattern appealed to him because it held the possibility of complete lack of meaning. Yates seems to be after something similar. Here, however, the disintegration of order in his obsessive hatching is part wrap-around reality and part exuberant theatrical motif.

-- Christopher Knight

Circus Gallery, 7065 Lexington Ave., Hollywood, (323) 962-8506, through June 27. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Above: Jason Yates' "Showing Shadows." Credit: Heather Rasmussen / Circus Gallery