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Art review: Chris Vasell at Blum & Poe

July 31, 2009 | 10:00 am
Chris Vasell careens between the pastel and the peppery in his two new bodies of work at Blum & Poe. One group of paintings is blandly attractive and the other, in part, optically repulsive. Both exhaust conceits that are thin to begin with, and neither feels consequential.

In the five huge canvases (one a diptych, the others measuring up to nearly 13 feet per side) that make up the group collectively titled “To the People That Know This Is Nowhere,” Vasell seems to be channeling the so-called stain painters, Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, saturating his unprimed canvases with thinned acrylic in a treacly palette of pink, aqua, violet, cherry and emerald.

But pigment isn’t all that’s diluted here. The vaguely biomorphic forms and chains of dots hint at psychedelia and the catalytic Rorschach blob, but mostly they look like unremarkable tie-dye jobs, improvised decoration with the eager gloss of irony.

In the other series, the L.A.-based Vasell coyly overlays rectangular patches of raw canvas, checkerboard-style, atop canvases painted either solid black or with concentric circles in muted rainbow hues. The Op Art effect of the woozy, warping monochrome piece is dizzying, tough on both the eye and the gut, as obnoxious as the stained paintings are obsequious.

-- Leah Ollman

Blum & Poe, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 836-2062, through Aug. 22. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.blum

Photo credit: Renée Martin / Blum & Poe