At LA Louver (through 2 July 2021)
Reviewed by Eve Wood
How does an artist adequately describe in paint the concept of love? One could say that even the idea of attempting to capture this ineffable human attribute seems schmaltzy and somehow embarrassing, yet most of us have at some point or other lived and died by the sword of passion- jilted, exalted, or both simultaneously. Each person’s personal history is also the history of humanity in that within each life’s unique and spectacular set of personal associations, images, affinities and biases, there also exists a common thread of communion, of universal likeness and of love. We all want it. We all have lost it. We all somehow find it again, and if we don’t, our lives speak endlessly to the pain of this loss.
It’s obvious that Rebecca Campbell, whose solo show Infinite Density, Infinite Light, is currently on view at LA Louver, loves fierce and hard, and if nothing else, her most recent exhibition of paintings at LA Louver attests to the pain and exquisite beauty of human love in all its infinite variations. Most profoundly, Campbell’s paintings investigate the love between a parent and a child, yet that is not as simple as it sounds. These paintings are completely devoid of sentimentality and nostalgia, which is why they are so effective and affecting. It is as though Campbell figured out a way to synthesize the huge and often overwhelming emotion that is love into a pure and verifiable visual language whereby we as viewers understand that what we are witnessing in these paintings is the precise moment when the artist has recognized her own ability to love deeply, freely and without hindrance. Yes, these are images of her son, on the cusp of manhood, laid out, strangely Christ-like floating on the surface of the water in the painting entitled Still Waters (2020), quietly waiting for his young life to begin, but these images are also visual testaments to the passage of time, and the complex and sometimes difficult familial relationships that inform who we are and how we move through our lives. These paintings are literally about Campbell’s life and family, yet they also contain the joys, sufferings and the all-too-human vicissitudes that comprise a life, any life.
Above all, these paintings are lovingly made, some like the gorgeous Nature Boy (2021) the name of which is reminiscent of the Nick Cave song of the same title, are more obviously abstracted as though the natural world was shifting beneath the young boy’s feet even as he stands there determined to face us and the life ahead of him. This painting in particular has a verifiable tension within it as one has the sense that the abstracted world where the paint nearly careens off the canvas, and the hulking mass of the trees is palpable weight, may represent the desecration of the earth by our own hands, and this young man may be our last and best hope for a better future.
Some of the works in the show are more obviously sinister as with the gorgeously irreverent To Have and to Hold (2019), where a young groom stands beside his deconstructed bride. The image pays homage to de Kooning’s Woman Series, yet where de Kooning objectified his women as specimens to be decoded and ultimately dismissed as hysterical and alien, Campbell’s shape shifting bride holds within her all the hopes and heartaches brought to bear on any young woman coming of age in the 1950s and 60s where a young, and capable woman’s greatest achievement was to be marry young and have babies. This work appears to tie directly into the sculptural work at the center of the gallery, a series of intimate personal letters derived from the artist’s own family archives printed onto a gauze-like fabric. Again, in less skilled hands, this gesture might appear naïve or deliberately antiquated, yet Campbell deftly and ever so conspicuously unveils her private history to include us in all its complicated and nuanced family drama. Some are love letters; some are concert tickets; some are impossible to read like memory itself where the original intended meaning is lost and all we are left with are the shifting inconsistencies of our lives as we age and begin to forget.
Ultimately, these paintings and sculptures command our observance, not only of them but of ourselves – that we show up at the center of our own lives for as long as we have on this big beautiful planet — that we might, as Campbell has done here, recalibrate our awareness to include so much more than ourselves.
Featured Image: Rebecca Campbell’s Radiant White (2020)
Eve Wood is Los Angeles Art Critic for Riot Material Magazine. Ms. Wood’s poetry and art criticism have appeared in many magazines and journals including Artillery, Whitehot, Art & Cake, The New Republic, The Denver Quarterly, Triquarterly, Flash Art, Angelino Magazine, New York Arts, The Atlantic Monthly, Artnet.com, Artillery, Tema Celeste, Art Papers, ArtUS, Art Review, and LatinArt.com. She is the author of five books of poetry. Also an artist, her work has been exhibited at Susanne Vielmetter and Western Project and Tiger Strikes Asteroid in New York. Wood is currently represented by Track 16 Gallery in Los Angeles.