Mustafa Hulusi’s first show at Patrick Painter, also his first in Los Angeles, included a group of small, medium and large-scale diptych paintings, tightly executed but barren, despite their luminescence. One half of each diptych features an op-art, black-and-white starburst, painted in acrylic, while the other features up-close, photo-realistic, oil-painted depictions of almond blossoms, native to the artist’s roots in Cyprus (he’s been based in London since at least the mid-90s).
The diptychs are arranged alternately so that the starbursts appear on the left and ride sides about evenly, so there’s equal opportunity juxtaposition. The almond blossoms gleam with a photographic deadness, the light bright but cold in its analytic glare, while other portions of the trees blur in the background. Does the synthetic quality of the almond blossom images make them more in collusion with the op-art starbursts? In theory. But there’s surprisingly little play between them.
The photo-based halves almost seem to want to meet the ends of the starburst bands just adjacent, but otherwise it’s impressive how two seemingly vibrant halves become so ineffectual in tandem; that such well-crafted paintings exist as clinical statements of fact but are visually indifferent to their respective partners is quite a leap of neutrality. Perhaps Obliteration and Memory is ultimately a highly effective conjuring of any number of theories, along the lines of society’s collective over saturation and visual insensitivities, or that memory exists in our minds not our eyes. It’s as if the Memory from the show’s title, as represented in the almond blossoms of the artist’s native Cyprus, is reduced to a cliché; a subtle screed against nostalgia. In any case, after departing Hulusi’s tightly grouped output of starbursts and blossoms, the memory slate is quickly wiped clean and is left free for the march of future sensations.