What's on Los Angeles | Index

by Jody Zellen

April 25, 2024

Clayton Schiff
March 1 - April 13, 2024

Paco Pomet
Last Adventures in High Res
Richard Heller Gallery
March 30 - May 4, 2024

Clayton Schiff and Paco Pomet

There is a strange affinity between the paintings of Clayton Schiff (at Harkawik Los Angeles) and Paco Pomet (at Richard Heller Gallery). Perhaps what ties them together is the unsettling humor in their debased presentations of human beings who are "off" in uncanny ways. Both also use quirky, limited color palettes.

For his exhibition Routing, Schiff presents medium sized oils on canvas in which isolated human-animal hybrids travel through urban and natural landscapes. The green figure in Enroute (2023) wears a pink tracksuit and seems fixed on getting to his destination as he (it?) approaches a labyrinth of criss-crossing pathways that intertwine as they recede into the distance. In Summer Screed (2023), Schiff presents a male figure (with a dog-like head surrounded by flies) wearing shorts, a tank top and sandals while sauntering through a quasi-desert— a space filled with dead birds, spilled liquids and dropped food items. Various tufts of green plant matter dot the acidy yellow-green ground.

While Enroute and Summer Screed are exteriors, paintings like Babble, Cleanup and Over There take place inside. A creature dressed in a blue robe with a long snout and a horse-like tail vacuums an unpopulated dimly lit hallway that curves off into the distance in Cleanup, while in Over There, a naked, pinkish green, short-tailed creature sits perched on a stool in the corner of a room and stares out an open window. Binoculars in hand, (he/it) gazes at dirt pathways lining the rolling hills alongside a distant shore. What he sees, or what he is looking for or at remains a mystery, as does the uncertainty of why.

Schiff's locations emit an aura of emptiness while his figures show an indifference to their situations. Within each scenario, Schiff hints at a need for connection that never seems to materialize — each character remains trapped or isolated within the confines of these barren invented places.

A sense of unease and disquiet also envelops Paco Pomet's paintings. His single hued mostly-monochromatic works (in tones of sepia, blue and gray) have a timeless quality and appear to be sourced from appropriated photographs from another era. These muted and carefully painted scenes are juxtaposed with jarring full-color cartoon characters or gestures that disrupt the tenor of the images while moving them from the believable and real to the "surreal."

In The Audition (all works 2024), a suited man sits at a piano with his arms poised above the keys, but instead of hands, Pomet paints a twisting coil of fat orange "spaghetti" extends from his wrists and globs all over the keys and up onto the piano like paint oozing out a tube. Three elongated beads of white cartoony sweat outlined in black float some distance from the man's head against the sepia toned background. Embedding offers a similar sense of "what is going on?" Set in what appears to be a 1950s or 1960s styled room, in this painting, a woman pulls a Murphy bed down from the wall. Caught between the wall and the mattress is a very surprised cartoony depiction of a distraught man.

There is an unsettling disconnect between the sketchy and impastoed brush strokes that define the woman and her surrounding verses the more illustrative style of the cartoon. While Poment's monochromatic palette recalls works by Mark Tansey, the seriousness of his compositions is thrown off base by the addition of unexpected elements be it alien light sources, cartoon characters or emojis. These humorous and witty works delight in rendering the "real" as "surreal." Pomet, like Clayton Schiff defamiliarize — they both create works that render the ordinary strange and in doing so change the way everyday scenarios and human interactions are perceived.