Art review: Adam Ross at Angles Gallery
The icy precision of digital imagery meets the hot-blooded romanticism of hand-painted pictures in Adam Ross’ new works at Angles Gallery. Bolder and bigger, more focused and formidable than anything the L.A. artist has exhibited over the last 23 years, his gripping collisions of up-to-the-minute attitude and old-fashioned atmosphere form a gorgeous dystopia that is not all that different from reality — and all the more fascinating for it.
All titled “In an Indeterminate Place,” Ross’ hallucinatory stews of oil- and water-based pigments are nothing if not out there. Each seems to come from a far-off planet, accessible only by time travel or great leaps of the imagination.
The three biggest, at 7 by 6 feet, suck your body into a vortex where gravity quickly loses its power, leaving you suspended high above a landscape that looks lunar, only stranger: maybe Martian, possibly aquatic. Scale is hard to pin down. So is distance. It’s a little like looking into the Grand Canyon, whose mind-blowing, perception-messing vastness is both thrilling and humbling.
Ross’ paintings, often made of as many as 60 layers of variously translucent paints and glazes, simultaneously suggest microscopic views of cellular structures. In every one, the view Ross presents seems to have been enhanced by powerful lenses and intensified by the latest high-def technology. Giving the naked eye a power-boost, his works suggest that we are all cyborgs, at least in terms of how digital technology has transformed human consciousness.
Space-age surveillance and its military applications also come to mind, especially as they are celebrated in big-budget Hollywood productions in which nuance disappears in spectacular orgies of special effects.
That’s the opposite of what happens in front of Ross’ paintings. Their richly detailed surfaces compel viewers to attend to more than one storyline, which often unfold slowly, mysteriously and with no end in sight. While wondering about the size, substance and significance of what you are looking at, you also wonder about the relationship between photography and painting, abstraction and representation, fact and fiction, pleasure and dread, fear and excitement, life and death.
Mondrian’s palette of the primaries plus black and white lies behind Ross’ meticulous pictures. Malevich’s diagonals also haunt his evocative images, as do Jack Goldstein’s high-keyed canvases from the 1980s. Creating unexpected connections across time and space, Ross’ curiously contemplative paintings are slow burns that sizzle.
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-- David Pagel
Angles Gallery, 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 396-5019, through Feb. 18. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.anglesgallery.com
Image: Adam Ross, "In an Indeterminate Place #3," 2012; Credit: From Angles Gallery