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'Burn the Rain' by Troy Barrett at Smart Objects, Los Angeles

Across assemblage paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, Troy Barrett’s first exhibition with the gallery conjures the razor-thin line between excess and destitution that so distinctly defines the multifarious metropolis of Los Angeles. Scenes ranging from ecstatic to apocalyptic reflect a Los Angeles-as-inferno, or city-as-crucible—a vessel of refining fire that tests, purifies, and strengthens its inhabitants. Roman amphoras for mixing wine and Greek kraters for storing food or human remains guide the exhibition’s internal logic embodying abundance and emptiness. As a portrait of and homage to the people of Los Angeles, Burn the Rain interlaces the city’s extreme archetypes of sickness and health to reveal how bodies and their organizing systems can take form as they unravel.

Tendrils fall from a disorienting birds-eye-view of LA’s shoreline, highways, and landmarks in the opus-scaled maximalist canopied painting, Mekone. Forming the city’s un-elected mascot of the helicopter, severed and conjoined bodies contort into friezes to contour the aircraft’s corpus mass. Stretching veins of traffic below are intersected by searching searchlights. Like reaching a higher consciousness through brute survival, the chaos-in-flight transcends its own turmoil, resolved in a classically balanced composition. In Moderna, the rapture arrives in the form of a virus anthropomorphized as demon-angel who sails through burning embers over a familiar hillside, now a hell-scape engulfed. 

Textured and kinetic canvases made in collaboration with Nikki Ochoa, Andrew Rutherdale, Stephanie Mei Huang, and Sam Newell focus on portraits of individuals that cumulatively constitute something more than a shared geographical location—a mutual constellation of references that synthesize a city’s ethos. Attributes are described by way of multiplying, decorating, fracturing, or abstracting subjects’ rutted portraits. Built-up and sculptured, their tactile surfaces share a storied coarseness that speak to conditions of economic exploitation and ruthless bureaucracy. Embedded within are the bits of things that accumulate to form the city—a seashell, dirt, wires, flowers. 

As if forged from the tumultuous landscape of the exhibition’s paintings, figure studies in graphite locate their contours and break down in turn. In gestures ranging from loose to piercing, airy marks might imbue one sitter’s vulnerable volume as soft and effervescent, while jagged, sharp, and dense execution might define another’s frazzled temperament. Cascading lines silhouette the skin of some bodies while others expose their inner architectures of muscle, bone, and organs. Individually and collectively, Barrett’s expressive subjects pose and dance as if enchanted by a voracious drive towards becoming ungovernable. 

12.11.22 — 22.1.23

Smart Objects

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