CRITIC'S PICK: Jeffrey Vallance Drawings at Edward Cella Art & Architecture

Drawings are more intimately connected to an artist than any other artistic medium. Like a writer’s diary, drawing is both a way of making connections and a way of life. The importance of drawing for creating an autobiographical voice, stretches from Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Dadaists, to Mike Kelley and contemporary conceptualists who valorize the process of exploring ideas. Drawings are the first visible form of a thought process where the artist cannot hide. The stark honesty of drawing means these artists create their identity inside their work. Life and work are inseparable - but in Vallance’s drawings they are inextricably connected to formative cultural influences. Vallance’s idiosyncratic iconography is drawn from making unexpected connections between disparate visual sources - ranging from pop culture, politics, nature, ancient mythology, art history, folk art, self portraiture, political portraiture, to paranormal phenomena - that erase the border between his life and work and the culture that informs them.

Vallance has always drawn prodigiously but Now More than Ever at Edward Cella Art & Architecture, is devoted to drawings which reveal the same whacky, signature motifs drawn from his foreign travel and close-observations of his own neighborhood: the raven, chicken, wild dog, cat, commercial logos, political buttons and solid eye record label. These folksy motifs have re-appeared in his drawings, paintings, multi-media and performance works over four decades.

Vallance says that in this exhibition he takes drawing into “unchartered territory to get to the most primal, raw essence which cannot be faked.” For him, drawings are “the most direct method of getting an idea out.” In these twenty-two mixed media works on paper he “takes drawing to another level” he could not plan, by drawing spontaneously using his entire body. Setting aside academic training, Vallance sought a drawing practice as an avenue to unknown realms. Allowing himself to scribble backgrounds in a frenzy Vallance entered a rapturous “altered state” - which Freud calls “automatism.” In this zone, Vallance is ambidextrous, his feet can move spontaneously and he even feels “intense gyrations.” Vallance’s interest in automatist scribbling developed from experimenting with paranormal phenomena like seances and the concept of the artist as a channel. Automatist drawing is associated with the archetypal imagery of Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists which has obvious connections to the unconscious. Vallance revisits an early modernist technique but adds an unnerving postmodernist twist. He generates anachronistic images which are puzzling and seem contradictory - because there is no over-riding dominant narrative. Vallance creates a phantasmagoria out of a dream-like medley of shifting disparate images which blur the line between the real and imaginary. He does not impose a narrative, because a fixed reading would arrest the shifting flow of this phantasmagoria.

Vallance turns the drawing process into a paradoxical reflection on itself by making palimpsests on handcrafted papyrus which he crumples and scribbles on and then reworks leaving traces of his hand in previous calligraphic markings. The picture plane becomes a scene of fugitive actions, where the movements of lines spontaneously turn into movements of more lines that generate images which can be fascinating or revolting - pulling us in or pushing us way. Vallance erases the dividing lines between different time periods, high art and folk art, nature and culture, modern art and postmodern art. Images of King of Tonga, Blinky the Friendly Hen, a UFO over Vegas, encyclopedic nature diagrams and commercial logos all have a place in Vallance’s shifting phantasmagoria. Vallance presents the contemporary cultural landscape we all inhabit with crass commercial brand names appearing everywhere in cyberspace - even in nature - so that they infiltrate our unconscious.

Seen together, these energy-charged drawings provide a glimpse into the mental life of an internally-motivated artist. In a commercialized art world which over-hypes externally-motivated artists Vallance’s refusal to be distracted from the intrinsic value that making art has to his interior life and vice versa, is almost heroic. Vallance is an influential artist and art teacher, represented in major museums and art collections. But unlike externally-motivated celebrity artists who depend on branding, the artist “Vallance” is as much a product of the powerful work he creates as his work is the product of Vallance’s introspective life.

Where: Edward Cella Art & Architecture.

754 S. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 09934

323 525-0053

When : November, 5 2016 - January 12,, 2017

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