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So voracious is the presence of the twelve works in this focused retrospective of Al Loving's work, set as they are against the inert framing of the white cube, that they might be better described by the activities that resulted in their making: stack, weave, layer, tear, cut, drip. The five works in the first gallery are essentially collages of interwoven spirals and grids, often brightly painted, glittered, and glossed to a gaudy, reflective shine. At once galactic and crafty, they push against orthodoxies of the medium, as they are without ground or matrix onto which the various elements are placed. In other words, they are all collage, with a happy excess of sinuous exposed edges. The largest of these works, Barbara in Spiral Heaven, 1989, carries traces of the artist’s hard-edge paintings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as his groundbreaking quilted canvas constructions of the mid- to late 1970s. When one realizes that each work in this gallery was made in 1989, they perform the visual equivalent of placing exclamation points at the end of a sentence. 1989!!! Al Loving!!! 

Some of the others in the second room trade in more representational content: the building-like Mercer Street VII, #9, 1988, the two bodies embracing in an untitled work on paper from 1979, and the barbed wire surrounding the Soweto township in apartheid-era South Africa (Soweto #1, ca. 1980). They are also remarkable, if moodier and with reservations about the state of the world. This jewel box of a show will travel to the Baltimore Museum of Art later this year, opening in mid-October. Until then, and if in LA, you should return again and again, like a spiral, deepening and expanding your appreciation for this still woefully underappreciated artist.

–Andy Campbell

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