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Given that a significant reason for L.A.’s current art boom is the ample square footage available to galleries, it’s hard to imagine that even a modest non-profit gallery would be too small for a five artist show. The shame, however, isn’t that Uncommon Ground, at Fellows of Contemporary Art, is cluttered or overstuffed, because it’s neither. The shame is that the ambition of the curator, Kate Whitlock, is wonderfully large, as is her eye for talent, but a lack of space hampers it and makes for uncomfortable viewing.
Prompted by Whitlock, the works are tethered together by an attention to the alphabet as an organizing principle. For Whitlock, the alphabet is representative of the intersection and overlap of societal forces that systematize a body politic and, effectively, determine the parameters of normativity, even to the exclusion of those outside of the norm. This overriding theme finds traction in thoroughly abstracted renderings by the five participating artists. Molly Larkey’s two sculptures, from her series The Not Yet (2014), are cooly demonstrative of the limitations of semiotic paradigms. Stark lines and primary structures of steel wrapped in linen oppose the flat verticality of the wall holding them in place. Like language, Larkey’s Signal 8 is multifaceted while simultaneously remaining grounded by a hard-and-fast definition. Seen from different angles, Signal 8 resembles a variety of letters and numerals; while facing it, the volume of the sculpture collapses almost entirely, masking its multidimensionality.
Lindsay August-Salazar eschews novelty for actual ideas with her neo-gestural abstractions that strategically reorganize the possibilities of linguistic and painterly vocabularies. Relatively large, her paintings are only fully appreciated by looking closely at the flat layers of paint applied to stretched burlap, loosely-woven and left exposed at intervals. The three artists that round things out make sizeable contributions, showing a range of promise and enthusiasm, but a real splash is made by Larkey and August-Salazar. With far too many L.A. galleries having more square footage than curatorial ideas, perhaps the biggest shame is that Uncommon Ground, with its astute vision, lacks the space for a fuller enunciation.
Uncommon Ground runs August 20-October 20, 2016 at Fellows of Contemporary Art (970 N. Broadway, Suite 208, Los Angeles, CA 90012)