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“Your unconscious can be a mystery. Not right now, when you can lucid dream without even trying,” read my horoscope app this morning (most likely written by a computer algorithm). Similarly stilted aphorisms pepper the press release for Avalon, a two person exhibition on view at HILDE (“Even the expansive arrangement overhead acts as the greatest portrait you’ve ever dreamed of”). The exhibition pairs the dreamy pointillism of Jean Nagai with the oversized plush works of Lilah Slager Rose. It’s not surprising that an exhibition titled Avalon conjures mythical sentiments (being the mystical island from Arthurian legend), yet in places the exhibition sacrifices unique idiosyncrasies to pursue unduly broad emotional effect. At times Avalon loses itself in itself.
Slager Rose and Nagai have a history of collaborating, and here, although they present individual work, both artists zero in on a warm color palette. Rosy orange and yellows abound across the work of both artists, creating an overly matchy, though soothing, aesthetic across the cozily-sized gallery. Nagai’s transfixing paintings layer lightly-colored stippling over washy backgrounds, recalling the ethereal movements of the Northern Lights. In Avalon (all works 2018), a thin blue ribbon of paint creates a horizon line across the picture, splitting the canvas into two halves. The mirroring compositions become an analogue time lapse—a record of hazy motion or aura. Others, like the misty Tone Police, are even less representational, as if the artists is hoping to convey only a mood.
Where Nagai’s paintings go mystical, Slager Rose grounds us in reality: her low-relief 3D undulations of foam and fabric feel like plumped up Lee Bontecous merged with the kitschy softness of an Oldenburg hamburger. The abstract Up on the Sun is made up of dimensional foam that is stacked and swaddled in fabric and painted riotous hot pinks and oranges. Tubular fabric pieces accent edges, drawing a line across the work that belies the tumult of the highly dimensional form it adheres to. The two artists collaborated on an installation of dyed and ripped muslin strips stacked across the ceiling of the gallery (The Mists). While it goes a bit too far towards ambiance and décor, The Mists compresses the aura of Nagai’s paintings into the drama and dimensionality of Slager Rose’s.
The show’s focus on a consistent color palette and woo woo emotion tends to undercut the thrilling strangeness of each artist’s work—particularly Slager Rose’s, whose sculptural wall works would be at home in the context of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. The moves towards visual consistency across the show stifle the space that each artist is able to take up. Still, the two artists share a striking kismet, and what the show lacks in depth, it makes up for with a certain familial warmth.
Lilah Slager Rose and Jean Nagai: Avalon runs from November 10–December 8th at HILDE Gallery (4727 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016).