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Art review: 'Mesopotamia' at Ruth Bachofner Gallery

July 17, 2009 |  2:47 pm

Le - 102744 (48x576) (panorama) (highres)

Trang Lê, who grew up in Vietnam in the 1970s and immigrated to the U.S. in 1982, comes to the subject of the Iraq war from a place of personal experience, with a depth of compassion that resonates through the heartfelt statement to her show "Mesopotamia," at Ruth Bachofner Gallery, as well as through the work itself.

The show’s centerpiece is “102,477,” a six-panel, 48-foot-long abstract painting made in direct response Le - 102744 (detail 14) to the conflict. The title refers to the war’s estimated death toll (by what source, Lê doesn’t specify), as well as to the number of small, spiral-centered blue dots that wash across the black ground of the canvas in robust waves. She characterizes the piece as a therapeutic act: a meditative practice of repetitive motion, intended to honor the memory of the dead and to transform the energy of violence and tragedy into that of creation and beauty.

The rationale might seem a tad sentimental if it weren’t such a breathtaking painting: monumental in scale and fittingly dramatic, yet achingly delicate and serene, with a range of tones suggesting the depths of the ocean.

The show contains a handful of handsome smaller paintings as well, but “102,477” is the showstopper. One hopes it finds the sort of home where it has the opportunity to make an impact.

-- Holly Myers

Ruth Bachofner Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., G2, Santa Monica, (310) 829-3300, through July 18. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Photo, top: Panoramic view of "102,477."

Photo, bottom: A detail of the painting.

Credit: Ruth Bachofner Gallery

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