Yekkk!

Resting on silkscreens in Irvine

Photo by Jack GouldThe last time I saw Yek, he was showing his parabolic canvases in the inaugural show at the Huntington Beach Art Center (HBAC) after the bloody coup that sent the justly vaunted Tyler Stallings to the Laguna Art Museum.

That was almost two years ago. What I said then—that the canvases, melding from tropical green to tropical yellow, would make really terrific patterns for sarongs—still stands. Because, you see, as far as I can tell, they're the same works. Like a road comic still telling Clinton's-dick jokes, Yek is still showing his slightly concave squares with pretty colors morphing into one another. That's fine: most of them are aesthetically pleasing (the exception is one that melds from black to pink like a sixth-grade girl's outfit in the throes of the '50s revival that reared its pointed head circa 1985). But considering they all come from the same mold anyway (identical bouncy lines, like the outline of a fluffy cumulus cloud, incise themselves around the border of each), I'm beginning to think Yek is resting on his silkscreens.

Instead of showing at the now-odious HBAC, Yek is showing with three others at the very nice Irvine Fine Arts Center (IFAC). How nice is it? They even have ducks and geese you can feed out back.

The four artists aren't tied together by any discernible themes, but themes aren't always necessary. Yek works in the played-out Color Field, though he falls somewhere in the middle on the scale of 1 (John McCracken) to 10 (Joe Goode). Though indebted to both, Yek has a bit more of Goode's shimmer and color interplay than he has of McCracken's depthless $30,000 slabs of hardened nail lacquer. He doesn't have Goode's organic quality (with Goode's "Ocean" series, one might have been 20 feet under the Caribbean, with the way the light dappled through) and he does share McCracken's obsession with the surface (an end in itself both in the '50s New York scene, since revealed to have been promoted abroad by the CIA, and in the '80s California Finish Fetish). Still, there's enough going on in his canvases to merit hanging one above the sofa—provided, of course, that one's living room is done up in saturated tropical sunset colors to complement his sunshine-to-tangerine (Smooth 2000) and forest-to-hunter green (Dive).

Yek's works are the best of the current IFAC crop—not due to any originality, seeing as how they're identical, but simply because of the emotional charge you get when you're inundated by that much color. The three other artists work in monochromes of the most subdued kind.

Tam Van Tran, with "Cold Frost," works in the hitherto unappreciated medium of Wite-Out. Of course, some things are unappreciated for a reason. The most likely reason Wite-Out hasn't found its niche may be because it offers only a grayish blob of chalky viscosity—somewhat akin to a corpse's complexion.

I could make a case for Wite-Out as the equivalent of Orwell's Newspeak, in which facts and events—even attitudes—are erased with the simple prefix "un." I could discuss the layers of time that produce history once excavated. I could ponder, thoughtfully, what lies beneath those corrections. I could talk about palimpsests. But that would be stupid, and I will not.

Atop his layers of correction fluid, Tran performs tiny drawings, mostly half-finished, of spiders skiing. The most interesting of the works (and if that isn't damning with faint praise, then I apparently have not learned how to damn) incorporates what looks like the droppings left over after one has used a three-hole punch. Small raised circles are attached to the bottom of a work on paper and then colored over. Double-plus ungood!

Caroline Dixon's "From the 10 to the 405" provides nice, abstracted commentary on the freeways on which we spend a quarter of our lives. Unfortunately, she does so in a way that isn't terribly compelling. Her aerial views of the region's onramps and cloverleafs, mirrored for symmetry, provide Rorschach blots upon which we can project our own imaginations. Interestingly, the views of engineering at its finest often look the most primitive. Jungle, an intricate series of loops and interchanges, looks like a giant frog, its blubbery lips gaping in a belch. Another looks like a tribal mask. But Dixon's works are marred by two things: her indeterminately schlubby background colors, which are as somnolent as Irvine itself, and the slickness of the patterns, which look like they were photocopied from somewhere instead of reproduced by hand. It would have made a huge difference had she painted the patterns after the photos, rather than just gluing them to her ugly canvases.

In the very back, David McDonald's "In the Details" is a hysterically refuse-filled room. Lair is a platform about four inches off the ground, upon which are placed at indeterminate intervals slabs of concrete, cement bricks and bits of plywood. Most are slightly larger than hand-sized and look like so much junkyard detritus. Most seemed to be merely scavenged, but some small clay-looking things were clearly sculpted—though as far as I could tell, they didn't represent anything at all beyond "kinda-cylindrical-lumpy-object." The ceramists of the 1970s, who decided that function was overrated when they all started gouging and punching holes in their anti-utilitarian vases, would be very pleased. As for the rest of us? Well, I'm glad the IFAC is there. I like to feed the ducks and geese.

Caroline Dixon ("From the 10 to the 405"), David McDonald ("In the Details"), Tam Van Tran ("Cold Frost") and Yek ("Crush") show at Irvine Fine Arts Center, 14321 Yale Ave., Irvine, (949) 724-6880. Through Nov. 5.

 
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