Alison Owen

housebound review

The value of having some space


December 24, 2004|Holly Myers, Special to The Times

It’s hard to go anywhere in L.A. these days without stumbling into a conversation about buying, selling, refurbishing, refinancing or searching for a house. Home ownership has long been a central facet of the city’s culture, but the recent combination of low interest rates, scarce supply and growing demand has driven the market into an especially feverish state, fueling the obsession of those who’ve made it into the game while broadening the gap separating them from those who haven’t.

“House Bound,” a gracefully assembled group show at Sabina Lee Gallery, explores the roots of this obsession with a consistently strong selection of work concerned with architecture and domestic space. Curated by Mery Lynn McCorkle, the show features several works each from six artists and strikes an impressive balance between variety and cohesion.

The primary through line is an attention to the aesthetic and psychological dynamics of space.

On the abstract end of the spectrum are the exquisite mixed-media works of Alison Owen. Of the four included, three are flat wood panels with slightly uneven (as if amateurishly cut) edges and flawless white surfaces, each covered with a scattering of small, uneven squares made from vellum, light-colored tissue paper and thread. The other is a slender horizontal shelf made from the same painted wood and loaded with several tiny stacks of white sequins.

Here, one senses, is the architectural impulse at its most essential: the compulsive proliferation of boxes and disks, one beside or atop the other like so many adjoining rooms. The pointedly handmade quality of the work posits an appealing alternative to the dry realm of technical draftsmanship and points to the psychological underpinnings of our desire for the containment of space.

Colin Keefe takes a similar approach on a broader scale with two large and very handsome line drawings resembling aerial views of imaginary cities, each composed of several hundred small, three-dimensionally rendered boxes. Though sharp and clean, Keefe’s use of line is just shaky enough to appear, like Owen’s squares, resolutely personal, and to cast the work in a decidedly psychological light.

Wendy Hirschberg’s charming wall-mounted sculptures — lightweight metal constructions suggesting rickety architectural models — are also pointedly, almost recklessly, handcrafted and underscore the element of fantasy involved in the construction of domestic space.