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Sojourner Truth Parsons’ show at Phil Gallery is called I Got Allergies, and her work is chock full of references to all sorts of things that might cause them. A rough, white, shoulder-high sculpture of leaning grapes, called it’s my life, divides the room. A painting called big flower has petal-like pink protuberances that stick up or disintegrate as they fall down. There’s matte black in the background of that painting and some rope and sand worked in; it’s a messy and casually dark ode to flora with a hands-on density.
Parsons, a Toronto-based artist (who shares her first two names with a fantastic 19th century African-American freedom fighter) has an indulgent, slacker-ish rebelliousness to the way she works. Her paintings look like they were made by that smart girl who gets it—one who knows that painting has had its midcentury heyday, has died, and has been born again with a market friendly vigor—but is making the choice to not care. Parsons’ lack of seriousness would be annoying if it felt like she were angling towards something—say, if she, like Helen Johnson, paired her casualness with just enough control to look post-Internet cool. And some work, like the Untitled video, leaning in the corner, or the slightly flatter paintings with long fingers holding cigarettes, do read as too self-consciously composed. But the best work seems driven by a desire for juicy, funny, infectious impudence. Paintings like the first fruit to fall, an awkwardly off-kilter composition of falling red fruit against pink protruding bricks, grab you for the heck of it.
Sojourner Truth Parsons: I Got Allergies runs July 11–August 14, 2015 at Phil Gallery (202 S Avenue 19, Los Angeles, CA 90031)