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Art review: Shirley Irons at Gallery Luisotti

April 16, 2010 |  7:30 pm
400.Shirley_Irons_Small_Mortuary Colors, shapes and recognizable objects float in space in Shirley Irons' modestly sized oil paintings of landscape fragments and, most often, urban interiors. The components are without anchor, save for the layered surface brushwork and compositional organization.

Because the depicted sites are empty —- vacant offices, hospital corridors, airport luggage carousels, museum escalators, etc. — the result is the considered representation of a built environment whose existence feels simultaneously charmed and fleeting. Everything seems grand yet poised to slip away.

 For her fourth exhibition at Gallery Luisotti, the New York-based artist presents eight paintings dating from 2003 to 2010, together with a display of a dozen small works arranged as a graphic wall installation and a pair of tabletop “collages” of loose, photographic snapshots. The wall and tabletop arrangements echo each other, while the placement of small paintings and camera pictures repeat the floating shapes in the paintings.

400.Shirley_Irons_Airport Several of those paintings derive from individual snapshots. The best work is the newest and also the largest — 2010's “Airport,” a rectangular painting just wider than 5½ feet. Irons' smaller paintings can seem claustrophobic and precious, but “Airport” fills up with salutary spatial complexity. She focuses on a nondescript transitional space for travelers, rendered in a palette of pale greens, peach, light blue, violet and a range of grays.

The composition is anchored as much by a subtle grid of color and light as by architectural features of floor, walls and a stairway railing. These are evanescent spaces, more comfortably occupied by perception than by bodies. Perhaps that's why the small paintings on gesso-covered wood rather than canvas are less successful, their physical heaviness weighting down the slight and fleeting image.

– Christopher Knight

Gallery Luisotti, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., (310) 453-0043, through May 15. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Images: Small Mortuary, 2003 and Airport, 2010. Courtesy, Gallery Luisotti.