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Willem de Rooij makes a mockery of the monochromatic. From afar, his new works in Legal Noses, his current solo show at Regen Projects, are all as flat and dull as desert earth. A red urn stuffed with palm fronds crisped by summer sun greets visitors to a gallery in which minimalist shaped-canvas paintings hang like angular sisal mats. But these “paintings” are made of tightly woven threads in pink, blue, black, brown, yellow, gold, and silver. Their precise patterns dissolve into fields of muted color that shift in subtle degrees from porridge to maple.
De Rooij hired artisan weavers just outside Berlin to compose the works’ textile surfaces. Together, the canvases form a massive Tangram, a square composed of seven different shapes that can be reconfigured into more than 6,500 forms. A relic of the Chinese Song dynasty (Westerners might remember them as children’s block sets), the Tangram is a visual puzzle that encourages the eye to assemble works in various spatial and geometric relationships. De Rooij does the work of a curator, each painting calling out to the other. The show’s title is also an anagram, another puzzle waiting to be cracked.
There’s real appeal to art that refuses the flattening effect of Instagram and insists upon phenomenological experience “IRL.” It reminds us that art’s auratic power depends not exclusively on the visual, but a host of other senses too. De Rooij’s paintings beg to be touched—and perhaps no amount of gallery-sanitizing Lysol could expunge the musty smell of decaying branches.
In Legal Noses, the finest threads weave a supple string theory, uniting macro and micro. Such trickery toys with the riddle of perception. De Rooij’s language and geometry are sets of building blocks waiting to be reassembled. His demands on the viewer are stringent but tantalizing, begging a closer look.
Willem de Rooij: Legal Noses runs July 25-August 29, 2015 at Regen Projects (6750 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90038)