Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Women Wore Gloves

Little Girl Go (2011) by DJ Hall

Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Culver City is currently exhibiting works by DJ Hall in "Kodak Moments, Portrait of a Los Angeles Artist in the 1950's." The artist under review in the '50s is DJ Hall as a child in Southern California. It's a playful show with a good mix of nostalgia and impudence. On one hand, there is a clear love for the details and nuances of the era, from Disney lunch boxes to girls attire to poolside birthday parties. On the other hand, there is a tongue in cheek campiness that portrays the era with a "Dick and Jane" simplicity.

In terms of emulating an era or setting, this show is fantastic. But there are other elements that make this show more than just a fine display of emulation. First, the painting and composition of the works are exceptional. These exuberant images are crafted with bold, expressive strokes. The vitality of the brushwork is the foundation from which these figures derive their powerful presence. Even the flowers seem to jump off the canvas towards the viewer. This paint has got punch!

Smell the Roses (2010) by DJ Hall

The second element that wins me over is the manner in which the artist uses her youthful self as a mirror or counterpoint to her mature self. In some of the paintings, the child has an adult's self-awareness. It's as if the artist has transferred her consciousness back in time into her young body. It's a powerful depiction of the way we all reflect back on our life, experiencing these childhood memories from the vantage of adulthood. In our memory, we inhale the fragrant flowers of our grandparent's garden with a poignant intensity that children rarely demonstrate. Kids aren't aware of the transience of life, wherein the flowers shortly pass away, as do beloved pets and family members.

And then there are those awkward moments, posing endlessly as mom photographs the first day of school or when someone else has the same Halloween costume.

The Dueling Alices (2011) by DJ Hall

Another technique that DJ Hall uses to set up a counterpoint between child and mature selves is to put herself in both versions into a single picture. For instance, the adult DJ sits by the poolside while the child Debra Jane splashes along in the waters. The superb facial expressions between the figures speaks volumes about the variance of perspective and experience.

I could go on and on about this show. It's absolutely excellent. I highly recommend checking it out.

DJ Hall's "Kodak Moments, Portrait of a Los Angeles Artist in the 1950s" is on exhibit at Koplin Del Rio Gallery from September 10 to October 14, 2011.

Here's an interesting older interview of DJ Hall.


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