Until 13 December 2015
When I first met London-based artist Lyle Perkins, in Los Angeles in 2011, he was a visiting artist-in-residence at the Raid Gallery Downtown. LA’s Arts District is full of legally zoned industrial spaces, where artists live on the fringes between Tinseltown and Skid Row. This milieu seemed to inform Perkins’ almost, photo-realist watercolours depicting the shopping carts of LA’s homeless, filled with their belongings; images which most Angelenos are conditioned to filter out of their sun-bleached dream vistas. But, as an outsider, Perkins’ studied them, subtracting the person to whom the cart belonged and the dirty streets and surrounding areas they traverse. Against a white space, these images look like highbrow children’s book illustrations; that is, until, after staring at them for a while, your mind fills in the blanks with the misery of mental illness and poverty.
Since moving to London two years ago, I regret not seeing Lyle as much as I’d seen him in LA, where I even managed to persuade him to play guitar in my ad-hoc Silver Lake band, Purple Thermos. This week, however, I made it to Bethnal Green for his opening at a storefront gallery called French Riviera.
Ease of Use is a small show consisting of a series of paintings based on everyday objects: a broken chair for example, painted in a manner both representational and abstract. Here again, Perkins zones in on commonplace objects from everyday reality by boosting the colours to extract the formal configurations from their normal settings. Within the tightly conceived compositions, the subject matter questions sculptural forms without the sociological implications of his Los Angeles work, however unintentional they may have been.
As before, Perkins experiments with the structure of the canvas, leading him to layer brightly coloured hues and create multiple planes and gestural motions. His use of utilitarian subject matter is compared, in the press release to Gerhard Richter’s painting Tisch (1964) and attempts to create a new vernacular distinction between photorealism and painterly abstract vision.
LA being a subject of common interest, we chatted about the city along with a third person who’d never visited the place. “It’s so amazing, you have to go”, Lyle said to the somewhat incredulous friend, as I nodded, startled by his affection, born of distance, perhaps, or more likely the general soggy misery of London in winter. He was really selling it. She’d better hurry, however. The aforementioned Arts District is evolving into a “desirable locale” and places like Raid and the 18th St. Arts Centre may soon make way for luxury residences. The overflowing shopping carts will end up in a landfill while their owners vanish. It’s a story played out in many major cities, and acutely so in London; you’d need to run a hedge fund just to live in Shoreditch today. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it occurs to me that my enjoyment of Lyle’s work might point to a yearning for non-reality in everyday objects that results from putting down stakes here in the rainy capital while my mind is still somewhere over the rainbow.
French Riviera gallery is in Bethnal Green, East London, presented by artists Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski as an extension of their long-standing collaboration.