Introducing Orilage by Monica Vidal rings Lawndale’s mezzanine gallery with a row of 6 cut paper swatches in gay floral colors. The unbroken line of similar pieces, all at eye level, encourages a fast sweep through the gallery, which doesn’t do the best pieces justice.
Of the 49 small works in the show, only a scant half a dozen were the forgettable doodads that the installation suggests they are, but the mass grouping homogenizes both good and bad, making it an effort to look at them individually. Vidal’s best pieces are intimate formal essays on scaly texture built from hole-punched circles, or witty remixes of patterns on commercially printed rice papers. Precision cutting gives Lace 2 (green) a fanatical rigidity. A square of rice paper has been cut away with very sharp, tiny knives; until all that’s left is a spidery network of straight green lines. Equally successful are softer papier-mâché pieces like Rings (pink), and Concentric 5 (brown), two of the best individual pieces. Rings (pink) is subtle; a pair of mottled squares with slightly different fleshy surfaces is humped into soft rings halfway between cupcake icing and an exotic skin disease.
Vidal’s weaker pieces suffer a variety of ills: Amassed: (white flowers) is simply too small to be amassed. The three Dome pieces begin and end as simplistic paper engineering problems. Earlier works like Joined 2 (pink and orange) and Slides have overcomplex picture-like compositions; dramatic bridges, holes and flaps that would have made a difference on a larger scale are miniaturized into triviality. Sometimes bigger is better.
At the other end of the scale, Weihong’s Golden Dragon Diary takes an 8 ½ x 11 idea and stretches it to fill Lawndale’s cavernous main space. A series of daily computer printouts on standard typing paper form a zigzagging line around the gallery. The six horizontal gray bars on each page form a sprawling, random architectural form with little to say about time, architecture or diaries. Meticulously installed, tasteful, and empty, the piece scrabbles for meaning through vague references to the Chinese calendar and the I-Ching.
The best part of the show is the artists” video diary, located in a kiosk near the show’s entrance. Here the same gray bars fade in and out, superimposed across hundreds of personal snapshots, unifying them into a watchable narrative of the artist’s day-to-day life.
All images courtesy the artists and Lawndale.
Bill Davenport is an artist and writer from Houston.