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Art review: Patrick Wilson at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

July 24, 2009 | 10:00 am


Over the last 15 years, Patrick Wilson has painted some of the most physically resplendent paintings to come out of Los Angeles. His new ones make his old ones look tame, not quite clunky but nowhere nearly as sophisticated as his mind-blowing acrylics on canvas and paper at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. If Wilson were a professional athlete and his game had improved so dramatically, fans would surely think he was juiced.

His paintings perform like champions, rising above the competition to do their own thing with such panache and dazzle that they are at once pleasurable and inspiring. Their extraordinary focus and clamped-down seriousness do not close them off to ordinary folks but instead link them to a wide range of human endeavors, especially to challenges that require dedication, integrity and persistence with no guarantee that such painstaking labors will pay off.

All four galleries have been given over to Wilson’s exhibition, which he has titled “Always for Pleasure.” The structure of all his paintings is similarly straightforward: solid or outlined rectangles of single or slightly modulated colors that are laid atop one another until just the right balance and atmosphere are delivered with bull’s-eye precision.

Wilson1 This basic format leaves Wilson plenty of room to strut his skills as a colorist and to flaunt his capacity to make right-angled geometry look radically individualistic, unexpectedly intuitive and filled with more freewheeling fun than you’d imagine.

No piece is like another. Despite the Minimalist compositions and hard-edged layouts, no part of any painting resembles any other part of it or its partners. Patterns never happen in Wilson’s work. Every square inch has the presence of an adventure, a journey into worlds within worlds where all sorts of discoveries are part and parcel of the experience.

At more than 5 feet by 8 feet, “Tide Pool” is the largest. Its scale recalls the midcentury Modernist architecture for which L.A. is celebrated. Its sensuality matches that made famous by such Light and Space artists as Robert Irwin, James Turrell and Larry Bell. And its accessibility shares much with David Hockney’s Pop paintings of swimming pools in neatly trimmed yards surrounded by shimmering reflections in glass doors.

“Calibration” consists of 11 one-foot square canvases hung in a row on two walls of a separate gallery. The colors run the spectrum, from blistering red to screeching green to glorious purple. They are set off by a similar span of dark-to-light grays and by a dizzying yet sensible mix of complementary colors. Think Josef Albers for the Digital Age, or Verner Panton on acid. If Donald Judd designed rainbows, this is what they might look like.

A group of five paintings on paper shows Wilson at his methodical best: cultivating the kinks in the system. “Eleven” consist of 11 rectangles of solid color painted atop one another, from largest to smallest. “Twenty-two” features 22 colors. The progression continues in “Thirty-three,” “Forty-four” and “Fifty-five.”

As the compositions get more crowded, the colors get weirder. Words fail to convey their subtlety and don’t come close to describing the peculiar relationships among them. It’s also fascinating to watch blocky rectangles become linear strips and then fine lines.

The titles of other works, such as “Bacchus,” “Quartet,” “Coffee Cake” and “Green Gray Yellow,” hint at the range of Wilson’s interests. His abstractions leave viewers ample room to pursue their own pleasures, mixing instantaneous gratification with long-lasting satisfactions in fantastic combinations.

-- David Pagel

Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, 5795 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (323) 933-2117, through Aug. 29. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Top: "Tide Pool"; bottom: "Medusa." Credit: Patrick Wilson / Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects