Amy Adler: Audition | Keita Morimoto: as we didn’t know it
2276 East 16th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Saturday, November 11 at 6:00 PM 8:00 PM
Ends Dec 22, 2023
Night Gallery is pleased to announce Audition, a presentation of new oil pastel works on canvas by Amy Adler. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Amy Adler has long imagined her artwork inhabiting a cinematic universe, as a kind of ongoing animated film in still images. Since the 1990s, Adler has steadily coaxed that world into being, populating it with familiar subjects and enigmatic stories. Her preferred medium is oil pastel on canvas, a process that is intimate, laborious, and—on the massive scale at which she often works—quite physically demanding. The resulting images are narrative paintings through which Adler explores the multiple subject positions and power dynamics involved in the creation of an image. The works in Audition expand Adler’s universe while simultaneously revealing their roots in her previous lines of inquiry: vulnerability, subject versus authorial agency, and queer desire. Across the five canvases that comprise the show’s titular work, an anonymous young blond woman emotes against a rudimentary set. On each monumental canvas, Adler drew a different still frame from a single scene she’d cut from one of her short films. The decision to return to her own previously authored filmic images places the painted protagonist in the same precarious position as the actor: subject to the whims and judgments of the audience. The theme of casting continues with Extras, which features a group of stereotypically hunky U.S. Army soldiers. The composition is based on a photograph of background actors relaxing between scenes. Through her act of translation, the image becomes an exploration of the performance of masculinity—in both entertainment and the armed forces—while the work’s subtle homoerotic charge hints that the film in question may not be intended for all audiences. And what does it mean to cast extras in a painting? Fixing these otherwise interchangeable characters into a permanent display irrevocably elevates their status. Adler continues this inquiry in Ingenue, a conversion of the ubiquitous social-media selfie into a five-foot-tall painting. The image of a teenage girl acting out her own femininity for the camera is not new to Adler, who has reclaimed photographs of herself at a similar age throughout her practice. In Adler's twenty-first-century image, however, the subject has chosen to share her likeness on Instagram with her public; she captures a mundane gesture of documentation in the otherwise private space of the bathroom. Adler’s work is often imbued with the kind of narrative tension that obscures whether we are witnessing antecedent or aftermath. This is true of Shower Scene, a series of closely cropped images of a woman’s face fractured by rivulets of running water. Another spare but pointed title heightens the anxiety, while Adler’s gradations of blue pastel create the flickering impression of water on a camera lens. These works take on heightened significance in proximity to the fifteen-foot-long Locker Room. If Adler’s actors are performing across the exhibition’s dozen canvases, then the temporarily shared space of the locker room becomes a backdrop for potential instances of vulnerability, cruelty, sexual tension, and transformation. Just as Adler’s work has steadfastly eluded the traditional paradigms of drawing, painting, and photography, this exhibition evinces a similarly slippery engagement with cinema. Here Adler presents us with establishing shots, screen tests, casting calls, and locations. Each cinematic canvas becomes a scene in Adler’s infinite director’s cut. —Jordan Karney Chaim ____ Night Gallery is pleased to announce as we didn’t know it, a presentation of new paintings by Keita Morimoto. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Keita Morimoto is both a painter and a virtuoso visual dramaturge; his acrylics and oils on panel and linen imbue ordinary, ephemeral moments of urban life with cinematic grandeur. The nocturnal cityscapes and portraits in as we didn’t know it are akin to stills captured from a single, atmospheric film or cropped sections along a much larger, continuous tableau vivant. The compositions feature moments of stillness while suggesting that action and revelation are imminent. Carefully calibrating between the familiar and the strange, the apparent and the hidden, the artist presses against the constraints of realism to engage the sublimity and meaning just beneath our world’s glossy veneer. Morimoto grounds his work in the physical world. His process begins on the twilit streets of Tokyo, his home since 2022. The artist records the darkening city with his camera, snapping adumbral buildings, clusters of young people, the ambient glow of fluorescent lights, and the sundry fixtures of a modern metropolis emerging from mottled shadows. Morimoto practices a democratic form of observation that trades conventional aesthetic hierarchies for ecstatic, omnivorous consumption—he attends as generously to exposed plumbing, akimbo trash lids, and detritus as he does to florid flurries of clouds, rakish apparel on pedestrians, and verdant ivy embroidering a concrete building. The artist then creates his collaged reference images by using photo editing software to manipulate contrast, color, and composition. As physical tools such as brushes and palette knives leave behind evidence of the maker’s process and hand, Morimoto’s technological interventions find their preservation on his surfaces, which feature convincing pixelated effects. His paintings appear composed entirely of squares and rectangles that fracture into tiny segments. They either highlight details or form smooth, lambent planes of color. Levels of resolution oscillate from blurry to lucid, and tonal gradients rarely fluctuate from the inky indigo of nightfall. These elements throw the artifice of the picture plane and the instability of surface appearances into stark relief. The dynamic tension between exposure and obscuration generates suspense and premonition, lending the artist’s frozen figures a sense of climactic hesitation. By pixelating his compositions, Morimoto submits traditional techniques, canonical allusions, and a robust array of artistic influences to a multifarious form of digital alchemy. He translates the noir palettes of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, the evocative atmospheres of Edward Hopper’s cityscapes, the emotional gravitas of Symbolist canvases, and the dramatic plays of light and shadow across Dutch Golden Age paintings into the graphic squares unique to our contemporary era. Striking chiaroscuro shading exalts an empty phone booth in Isolated Echoes; twin vending machines sync with the stark, geometric architecture of a skyline in Chasing Blues; and a woman’s translucent profile emits a somber, lunar radiance in Pearls. Morimoto collapses the distance between art historical past and digital present, transforming once familiar figures, objects, and motifs into uncanny images that demand not only the viewer’s attention but their active participation. The artist doesn’t undermine the quotidian so much as bend perception. With a keen understanding of theatrical illusion and narrative suspense, he illuminates the transcendent qualities of the mundane and effects evanescent yet profound epiphanies of (extra)ordinary life. —Tara Anne Dalbow
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