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"Stone Gravy" in ARTnews

By Christopher French

Los Angeles-based critic David Pagel grouped six painters and three sculptors from the West and East coasts inspired by the "Stone Soup" fable, titling it "Stone Gravy." Exhibiting the austerity of abstract formalism (represented by stone), leavened and enriched by sensory overloads of color, texture, and pattern (standing for the gravy), were the painters Brad Eberhard, Annie Lapin, Kim MacConnel, Allison Miller, Richard Allen Morris, and David Reed. Sculptors Polly Apfelbaum, Ron Nagle, and Matt Wedel, by contrast, argued for expanding sensory delight beyond the strictures of wall-mounted rectangular planes. Wedel’s oddly endearing ceramic sculptures hybridize the animal, vegetable, and mineral categories, with brightly glazed plant or humanoid forms sprouting from crystalline bases. The otherworldly naturalism of his "flower tree" (2011) contrasted with the mediated gestures in Reed’s longitudinal "#483" (2001-02), which Pagel describes as “slow motion, time-release reveries.” Lapin and Miller both practice abstract painting, as the distillation of perception, although Lapin’s moody palette, with erasure, smear, and blur, was a departure from her earlier, landscape paintings. Miller’s quirky approach endows the geometries of everyday objects and materials, such as chain-link fencing, drapery, and clothing, with painterly personalities, as if to suggest a portrait in absentia. Approaching miniature, Nagle’s ceramic sculptures offer exquisitely crafted declarations about the incongruities of the natural world. "Son of Fudge" (2012), like much of Nagle’s work, enlists visual overload to address the contradictions between appearance and function. Apfelbaum’s “Feelies” (2010-11) express a childlike delight in colorful polymer clay. More than three dozen of her small compositions, arranged in a loose grid across two tables, showcased patterns common to minimal and folk art. These found a natural sparring partner in MacConnel’s hard-edged geometries. Delineated in high-key primary and secondary colors and sequenced horizontally across nine panels, they embodied the unifying thread here: abstraction as coded communication in pictographic form.

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