The first exhibition we encounter in a particular art gallery may color our perception of the space even after the work of different artists has redefined it over and over again. Certainly Alex Hubbard’s majestic series of translucent quasi-sculptural paintings—created to inaugurate the new Los Angeles outpost of New York’s Maccarone gallery, which opened September 19 in the Downtown Arts District—provides an indelible introductory impression of this eagerly anticipated new venue.
Enigmatically titled Basic Perversions, Hubbard’s show features 11 imposing yet consistently absorbing multi-layered abstract compositions. The paintings’ glassy surfaces were fabricated by pouring hot, pigmented urethane and other materials onto stretcher bars, generating chemical reactions that created bright patterns. Hubbard then added a contrasting element of opacity to some pieces by hand-applying oil and automotive paint over certain areas of their pellucid support.
While about half of these still-untitled works are placed against the gallery walls, others stand freely in the middle of its rooms, allowing viewers the unusual opportunity of viewing the paintings from both front and back. Though there is considerable physical space between many of the pieces, their diaphanous surfaces, enhanced by considerable natural light streaming in through ceiling skylights, radiate a presence that fills the gallery’s main 9,000 square-foot exhibition space. The initial challenge of occupying such a large area, Hubbard acknowledges, made Basic Perversions “the hardest show I’ve ever done…each painting was really such anguish,” he says.
Hubbard is one of two artists (along with Oscar Tuazon) represented by Maccarone whose studios are situated directly on the gallery premises. After “growing up” in the New York art world, Hubbard moved to Los Angeles a few years ago, unaware that his home gallery would soon be following him out to a place that founder Michele Maccarone characterizes as “the most artist-centric city in the world.” Finding “a lot of camaraderie and less competition” in L.A. than in New York, Hubbard acknowledges sometimes missing the excitement of staying out until 4 a.m. arguing with people about art but also suggests that being here is what has allowed him to go back to painting after devoting much of his recent career to video work.
Freed from the pressure to consider “abstract painting as a tool for conceptual arguments,” Hubbard suggests that in moving to L.A. he has cast off some of the “baggage” that the frenetic New York art dialogue sometimes imposes. “It’s hard to even make a mark with all of that in your mind,” he says.
Basic Perversions runs through December 19 at Maccarone Los Angeles, 300 South Mission Road.