What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

September 27, 2018

Rory Devine
Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes
September 16 - October 7, 2018

Rory Devine, Installation view, Untitled (Fever), Untitled (More Problems Than Originally Thought), (2018)

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes is the chorus from a David Bowie song. In Changes, Bowie advocates turning to face the strange… and that ... "Time may change me, But I can't trace time."

In his life and through his art, Rory Devine has experienced and reflected upon change. The paintings in his 2015 exhibition, Iconoclastic Works of the Early 21st Century were ironic narratives that critiqued media culture and explored the absurdities of human existence. They were made in response to to appropriated images drawn from the media and communicated a sense of fluidity as well as the transitory qualities of existence. His message: life is precious, precarious and fleeting.

In his current exhibition, Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes, he has stripped the work of representation in favor of abstraction, presenting geometric and colorful patterns (that call to mind wall paper or wrapping paper). The modest sized paintings (24 x 36 inches) do not overwhelm, but rather invite the viewer to contemplate balance and disruption, as well as the difference between things made by hand rather than mass produced. The hand is not exact and these hand painted patterns are full of subtle variations — this is what makes them interesting and memorable.

Devine is a deft painter who at times in the past has masked his skills. These works cry out, "I love to paint." "I paint well" and "I am going to indulge in that which is pleasurable, while thinking about the formal issues of painting." As bright and happy as the works seem to be on the surface, there is an underlying threat or fear that can be gleaned from paintings of chains and other such barriers that Devine conjures with aplomb.

Much can be inferred from Devine's titles which also direct the paintings toward emotional uncertainty. Untitled (More Problems Than Originally Thought), (all works 2018) is one of the darker paintings on view. Atop a semitransparent black and sepia toned background featuring groups of cells is an array of lighter white toned circular forms suggesting atoms. Within this mixture are a few anomalies. The image could be interpreted as a self portrait and a diagram illustrating that on a molecular level, things are not as they should be. In Untitled (The E in Everything), a similar depiction of white toned cells form the shape of the letter E. The negative spaces in the letterform are represented by black circles. The 'everything' that Devine references is purposely open ended and ambiguous. Untitled (Come As You Are) and Untitled (Fever) are examples of Devine's brighter patterns. Here red/white or red/yellow and blue striped ovoids, akin to a chain of teardrop shaped Christmas ornaments decorate the canvas. Each 'chain' is surrounded by columns of squiggling lines.

The overall feeling of Devine's exhibition is one of melancholy. The works radiate hope and despair simultaneously. That Devine can still paint in the face of life's challenges (he had an unexpected stroke a few months ago) attests to his drive, commitment and desire to communicate. Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes is an exhibition that uses the lens of abstraction to look both forward and back.