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Rebecca Campbell, “Infinite Density, Infinite Light”
L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California
Review by Andy Brumer


Rebecca Campbell, “Nature Boy,” 2021, oil on canvas, 60 x 110”

 

Continuing through July 2, 2021

 

The cosmic and the commonplace, the familiar and the frightening condense and expand in powerful, narratively-driven rhythms in this exhibition of twenty paintings (and a sculptural installation) by L.A.-based artist Rebecca Campbell. Known for her representational idiom, Campbell’s work in this show sings lyrically, dreams mystically, while venturing confidently and without narcissistic fanfare into invigorating experimental territory.

 

Campbell depicts her own children and other family members in her paintings. There is an alternating sense here of serious portraiture, brushy expressionism and disposable Polaroid snapshots. It’s almost as if the artistic personalities of a Grant Wood, David Salle, John Baldessari and Mary Cassatt had emanated from the brush of one artist. 

 

In “Nature Boy,” for example, the artist positions an image of her young son calmly standing in front of the claw-like roots of a huge tree that seems to want to chase after him. Campbell’s scene evokes both Cezanne’s chiseled tree trunks and branches and Rousseau’s luscious and exotic foliage. Here, nature and nurture coalesce without conflict. 

 

Campbell’s sharp visual sense of humor remains irrepressible in many of these works. In “To Have and to Hold” the artist positions her brother-in-law, clad in a sizzling and blurred paisley tuxedo, next to an imitation of a tangled, compressed, and distorted de Kooning “Woman.” It’s as though the persona of cool, air-brushed photo-realism asks an alienated and anxiety-ridden Abstract Expressionism out to the Senior Prom.

 

The show’s title, “Infinite Density, Infinite Light,” refers to black holes in space, where unrelenting, even unimaginable massiveness creates a gravitational field so strong that not an inkling of light escapes them. Indeed, 95 percent of our universe consists of this kind of dark matter and dark energy. What light that does roam free for all eyes to see becomes, from this perspective, a cause for celebration.  

 

Both density and light converge in “At the Edge of America,” where the artist sets her son on a blue sky-covered, cloud-accented beach. The boy gazes toward a dense, Stonehenge-like rock. He may even be clapping his hands in worshipping approval as the painting leads his and the viewers’ eyes toward that ultimate meeting of density and light, the seascape’s horizon line.

 

Amidst these paintings stands a multi-media installation titled “To the One I Love Best,” which bisects the lower main gallery floor. It is made up of metal-framed armatures from which hang sheets of translucent fabric displaying a variety of personal and historical documents and ephemera screened onto them, including archival family letters, business receipts, Western Union telegrams and a Valentine’s Day card. A moving light projector bathes the piece in a soothing progression of blue, pink, white and yellow hues. While not at all edgy or visceral, the work nonetheless evokes Ed and Nancy Kienholz’ always edgy and visceral, autobiographically-based installations.

L.A. Louver

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