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Bonnie Camplin’s Friends of a Cube (2016), a childish, yet uncomfortably polished artwork, shows a little girl with unruly hair perched on the outline of a cube. A figure beside her, though the same shape as the girl, is hard to identify—this figure has devolved into a weird study of triangles and orifices. Like nearly every other artwork in Precog Jamaica – LA, Camplin’s current show at Michael Benevento Los Angeles, this work is black and white, bold lines printed onto a pristine white panel. Its plastic precision makes it still harder to read—it looks almost store bought.
The images in Camplin’s show would all be at home in a coloring book or textbook. A geometric wall drawing consists of stacked rhombuses. An on-panel diagram depicts floating cat heads tethered to cubes. If you have seen London-based Camplin’s past shows at Benevento, you know her work is not always this minimal. Her 2013 show featured loose, fantastical sketches, including a particularly good one of two suited men tapping away at an unwieldy stone, as if typing.
This show’s dryness is intentional. According to the press release, Camplin considered these works stemming in part from “instructions/information transmitted” from “far-future witches.” Funnily, these future witches communicate in a same-old design language, still attracted to the linearity and geometric abstraction synonymous with tautological authority—even if they occasionally toss in kittens.
This aesthetic stuckness makes the show visually predictable. But, it also becomes the work’s quite relatable content. If you’ve ever tried to sketch a dream you had, you’ve perhaps discovered how quickly subconscious adventures become squares and lines. It’s depressingly hard to break from what we know without inventing a new vocabulary, and invented vocabularies tend to be illegible. Camplin’s work compromises, hovering awkwardly between the generic and inexplicable.
Bonnie Camplin: Precog Jamaica-LA runs August 27-October 8, 2016 at Michael Benevento (3712 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90004).