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Art review: Elizabeth Patterson at Louis Stern Fine Arts

July 2, 2010 |  4:00 pm
300.EAP_BurbankBL_SepulvedaBL Photo-Realism enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame in the early 1970s and then faded into the background. Today, it stands out as one of the few movements from those heady days that a new generation of artists has not recycled, rehashed or riffed off of.

At Louis Stern Fine Arts, Elizabeth Patterson’s colored pencil drawings bring Photo-Realism up to date, transforming its labor-intensive imagery and keenly observed subjects into startlingly fresh images of perfectly ordinary moments that are all the more enchanting for being commonplace.

Each of Patterson’s precisely rendered pictures is the view through a car’s rain-splattered windshield. Approximately half of the 25 drawings she made over the last four years feature streets around Los Angeles, including Wilshire, Ventura and Sunset boulevards. The others leave the city behind for lonely country roads with little traffic, rolling hills and lots of trees.

300.EAP_Faylake_rd But the real drama plays out in the raindrops. Each is a universe unto itself, an oddly shaped abstraction or a lens through which natural and artificial light reflects and refracts. Their number is daunting, as is Patterson’s devotion to the singularity of each, not to mention the blurry world that lies beyond the rain-splashed glass.

She mixes solvents into her works on vellum, giving them the delicacy and fluidity of watercolors while maintaining the crispness of pencil drawings. It’s a felicitous combination that echoes the double nature of her images, which let you look at and through a surface — into a multilayered world where otherwise ordinary details are suffused with extraordinary beauty.

--David Pagel   
Louis Stern Fine Arts, 9002 Melrose Ave., L.A., (310) 276-0147, through Aug. 28. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Images: "Burbank at Sepulveda, 5 PM" (top) and "Faylake Road, 12 PM." Courtesy of Louis Stern Fine Arts.