The The explosion at the end of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point transfixed me when I first saw it. Then it transfixed me again and again as I re-watched. Antonioni's young heroine stares at the architectural embodiment of everything she's rejected, an aloofly minimal desert chateau, wishing to sever herself from its banal austerity. It's a sort of self-purging: her stare causes the chateau to blow in slow motion, debris psychedelically swimming to the music of Pink Floyd. No existential messages need to be pulled from the ruin. We're simply invited to lose ourselves in the scene's kinetic fiction. Immediacy matters more than poignancy.
Gary Lang's swirling discs are to Antonioni's explosion what utility poles are to lightening rods: different in purpose but parallel in effect. Lang's circular canvases, with bands of color spinning out from the center, toy with perception so kaleidoscopically that transcendentalism seems hopelessly irrelevant. Who needs a Turrell skyspace when radial color patterns cause head trips?
Hung close together in Ace Gallery's sprawling Beverly Hills space, Lang's discs are visual co-conspirators that push and pull in and out of one another. They're meant to be together. Alone, some might seem happily decorative, fun experiments that make for good background noise (others would better hold their own as mind-benders). But together they are a cultural repository of patterns-Full Circle
recalls hippie headbands while Chance Circle
evokes ‘90s pop-and a testament to painting's ability to instantaneously alter perception.
Lang's discs exhibit no monumental ambitions, no addiction to fetish finish, no illusionism. From close-up, the craftsmanship is readily apparent, and while it's far from pristine, it's precisely calculated.
titled in acknowledge of its 13' diameter, presides over the gallery. Its colors are subtle. Flesh-tone pinks and quiet grays pull all the way through the painting's radius, ending in a soft glow around the disc's outside edges. This is the one I keep going back to because it reminds me that instant gratification can still be poetic.
(Images from top to bottom: Goliath
, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, 13' Diameter, Ace Gallery Beverly Hills; Roam
, 2008, Acrylic on canvas, 9' 5" Diameter, Ace Gallery Beverly Hills; Knome
, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, 6' Diameter, Ace Gallery Beverly Hills)