LA Times

March, 2009
Review: Tomory Dodge at ACME


Tomory Dodge has the advantage of being a painter who clearly loves paint, which lends most everything he does a base level of luscious materiality. The question that follows — and that seems unresolved at this point — is what exactly he should be doing with it.

In five solo-show-studded years since graduating from CalArts, he’s become known for tipping between representation (largely landscape-oriented) and a highly gestural abstraction, drawing inevitable comparisons to Gerhard Richter and Joan Mitchell, among others. Lately he’s been tipping decidedly toward abstraction.

There are about seven large canvases (6 to 7 feet across) and three smaller studies in his current show at ACME. Most are predominantly black, with intermittent touches of sky blue, green and pink. The only trace of representation is the occasional suggestion of a night sky lurking behind the thick clouds of brush strokes that make up the bulk of each composition.

The effect is dense, claustrophobic and vaguely oppressive. The frenetic patchwork of strokes, gathered like bits of lint on a screen across a vent, keeps the viewer pinned to the surface of the canvas, while the occasional, teasing hints of sky suggest another, more spacious realm beyond. It is clearly a deliberate choice, but to what purpose isn’t clear. As engaging, even engrossing, as the details of Dodge’s surfaces can be, the enterprise as a whole feels rather muddled.

One has the sense of the artist confronting the enormity of the universe, making these marks by way of both declaration and self-assurance: I am here, I am here, I am here — the fundamental implication of the gesture since the birth of painting itself.

To which one is compelled to respond: Yes, I see that. And?

— Holly Myers

ACME, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (323) 857 5942, through March 14. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photo: Tomory Dodge’s “Kicker” (2009). Credit: Robert Wedemeyer