Royale Projects opens an exhibition featuring two Los Angeles based artists that create powerful works, atypical of west coast abstract paintings. The title of the exhibition, “I’d be safe and warm”, is taken from the Mamas and the Papas song “California Dreamin’”. Papa John Phillips shares a vivid and romantic vision of a winter day in New York City. Dreaming of a warmer and more welcoming environment, he adopts a false spirituality to momentarily find shelter from his bitter surroundings. Similarly Helen DeSanctis and Liat Yossifor seem to long for a distant place while skillfully capturing the cold reality of where they are.
Helen DeSanctis explores transformation through obsession. She mines patterns sourced from Jewish ceremonial textiles, West African ritual masks, orthodox icon paintings, alchemical diagrams and mathematical equations. Melding these varied images she creates dense, interwoven tapestries of thickly layered oil paint. Originally vibrantly colored, DeSanctis white washes the final layers, diffusing the diversity like the sun bleached facades of the bland buildings that blend the cultural identities of the population that lives along the winding edges of Sunset Boulevard.
In Liat Yossifor’s recent work she has turned away from the restrictions of representation. She has traded in the literal imagery she became known for, replacing it with fearless swipes, scrapes and marks of pure abstraction. The spectrum of grey in her paintings, as described by Los Angeles Times critic David Pagel, range from “whisper-soft tints as delicate as a mourning dove’s feathers to steely shades that would be at home on a battleship”. With her monochromatic palate and intuitive mark making and you can see Yossifor’s mind travel longingly to European Expressionism and the New York School legacy. Despite her yearnings, the work is firmly grounded in the way the Western light washes in her studio window located on Hollywood Boulevard. Teases of color echo the flashes of glitter you notice embedded into the grime and asphalt of that famed, star spangled street.
Neither of these painters indulge in the sexy, synthetic colors and fetishistic surfboard finishes that have become the pacific standard. These artists are important indicators of a new perspective on westcoast abstraction. They see beyond the surface and look deeply into the dark layers of contemporary South Coast culture. Turning their back on expected traditions.