This wild week of L.A. gallery openings started on Thursday with Anthony Lister at New Image Art in West Hollywood. Although I’ve always admired the movement Lister conjures up in his pieces–in his superhero series or his street faces–I had come to expect still figures in Lister’s work, and, because of that, I had no idea what to expect from a show focusing primarily on the figurative movement of dancers. What I found was impressive indeed.
Lister’s decision not to back or frame his canvases enhanced the gallery atmosphere considerably. Instead, they hung flat on the wall and had a textured, organic feel. Perhaps because of this, visitors were encouraged to touch some of the pieces, and more than a few visitors shuffled through the canvases that had been stacked on top of one another and affixed to the wall, giving a sense of a flip-book without the sequential art component.
The effect came off as straightforward and intimate, as modern in the best possible way, and this was aided by Lister’s humorous strings of sentences, penciled onto the white walls above, around, and even underneath the works. In one, he suggested that an immovable load-bearing girder be moved to better accommodate his work, and in another he provided guidance on how his art needed to be lit. Beneath his portrait of van Gogh, he wrote: “Id like to think van gogh wouldnt agree with making his work into a laurel if he had a say in it”.
The stand-out works were a pair of tiny black sculptures (that the artist described as making perfectly before mashing them in his hands until each felt right), and a large canvas on the back gallery wall that tackled the topic of strippers on stage. If the ballerinas in pink were a nod to Degas, this piece had far more Lister in it, beautifully tackling a topic most find ugly–and yet pulling out more than a bit of truth in the wild curves depicting the dancer’s (or perhaps even dancers’) series of gyrations, all the while contrasting them with the total stillness of the men watching from their stools.
Overall, it was an excellent show, and to my mind, clearly a step up for Lister, who has already been enjoying a fast rise over the past year. An exhibition like this simply confirms that it is for good reason.
Anthony Lister runs through April 7 at New Image, 7920 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046.