Genie Davis, Art and Cake: Frank J. Stockton
“Shift” and “Big House” Perfectly Paired at DENK Gallery
By Genie Davis
February 9, 2018
It would hardly be surprising if upon first walking into DENK Gallery, taking in the effect of both Frank Stockton’s “Big House” and the group show, “Shift”, a viewer took both exhibitions for one show. Running through February 17th, the two are perfectly paired and with Stockton’s massive piece visible through an opening from the front room of the gallery, the two morph into one cohesively beautiful space of just about perfectly contrasted images.
The front room houses “Shift”, featuring works by four LA-based artists: Karen Carson, Kim Dingle, Iva Gueorguieva, and Elisa Johns. While each of these artists’ works here are abstract, they’ve each created representational pieces and their fluidity in mastering both genres shows. Gallery director Carl Berg notes: “The show is a grouping of artists who float between abstraction and representative work.”
Dingle’s work resembles an interstellar landscape. Paintings of stars, swirling skies or seas are carefully framed with rough maple wood that still, deliberately, includes stickers from Home Depot. The paintings themselves, many on Mylar, reveal a background of wafer board showing through. The images seem to be of creation, of a void becoming identifiable. A part of the artist’s Nature Series, these works are rich and contemplative, even as they depict a passionate sense of motion. Her framing takes the viewer firmly back to “reality.”
Carson’s work also evokes nature, but with a very different, more direct and intense feel. Working with bas-relief painting in vibrant colors that also include tense black lines and white space, she creates images that are both flat and dimensional, works that quiver with tension.
Johns’ work has a floral look to her towering landscapes of mountains and cliffs. The colors, and the shapes in the foreground of the works are a garden of shapes. Depicting these landscapes, both in her color palette and her form, the images have the feel of abstract impressionism. Nature is graceful, mysterious, and just out of reach for the viewer, who nonetheless is left longing for more of it.
The energy of Gueorguieva’s abstract work is palpable. Shifting and tumultuous, the viewer can sense the immediacy and power of the artist at work in her finished piece. Strikingly, the way in which the works are curated throughout the room leads the viewers eye from one to the next, flowing through each work and taking in both their connectedness and their very different aesthetic. Gallerist Berg notes: “My signature is I know how to install a show – for me curating a show is hanging it.”
Moving through to Frank Stockton’s “Big House,” Berg notes both the beauty of the work and the installation. “It would not have worked if the images were spread out. The works were not conceived initially as a sequence, they’re bolted together.” Here are 15 paintings staged as an installation, their interconnectedness rendering the floor to ceiling work an intimate, dream-like look. Revealing groupings within groupings, the non-linear narratives within the piece focus on a house Stockton used to live in with his family near Lake Elsinore, which he calls “the big house”.
Combining both acrylic with a primarily oil palette, Stockton employs memory and illusion, as with an image of a massive tree that he did not remember seeing at the home as a child; yet when he visited the location to take photos as reference, it was massively present. There is an undulating sense of surface in his images of house, home, and arrival. Several panels represent America itself, with the head of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty’s arm. In front of the massive piece, there is the inclusion of a chair and a plant; the plant casts shadows creating an additional, diffuse pattern. Berg says the work serves as a bit of an homage to artist Phillip Guston, particularly in regard to the tromp l’oeile look of some of installation.
Both abstract and representational, Stockton’s work is mythic not just in scope but in his approach to the domestic life of home, a blur of memories good and bad that define the artist and the viewer. The work has an elegiac, almost ghostly feel, as if both the warmth of family and the cold of abandonment and self-revelation lived side by side. And perhaps they do.