The new paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Rebecca Campbell in “Crush,” an exhibition at L.A. Louver in Venice, fuse representation, abstraction, and narrative with a nostalgic sublime.
Inspired by memories of her childhood and adolescence in Salt Lake City, she develops her ideas by taking photographs of staged subjects, which she then renders as drawings or small oil studies before moving on to larger canvases.
Each of her paintings is grounded in one vibrant color, such as cadmium red, acid green, violet, or manganese blue, which lights the painting from beneath. Upon this ground Campbell juxtaposes layers of thin washes in translucent colors, using thick impasto and sweeping brushstrokes to build her composition.
At the root of Campbell’s painting is her love of the medium. She cites Rembrandt, El Greco, and Sargent as major influences, and also refers to the work of Cornell, Hockney, and Viola.
Her work is photographic in the sense that the paintings frame isolated moments and flatten space. However, like a good cinematographer, Campbell filters color, distorts perspective and places a distinctive lens over the worlds she makes in oil.
The paintings in the exhibition vary in subject, but all of them are dominated by a single protagonist who is wholly engaged with his or her surroundings.
Each of the five paintings in the “Unwritten” series is a portrait of an adolescent boy who seems to challenge the viewer.
The subject of the largest painting in the exhibition, “American Fork, 2005,” is a young girl seated foreground in a broad field. In the distance, factory buildings are dwarfed by a sweeping, turbulent sky.
Campbell, 35, is the youngest of seven children in a strict Mormon family. Her father was a prominent church official, but she was more interested in the arts and, at 12, she began to question the tenets of the church and the role it assigned to her gender, and broke with the church.
She studied at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, received her B.F.A. in 1994, and worked as an independent exhibition curator in Salt Lake from 1994 through 1998, when she won a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. In 1999, she moved to Los Angeles where she earned her M.F.A. from UCLA in 2001.
This is Campbell’s second solo exhibition at L.A. Louver. Her paintings have also been exhibited in New York, Columbus, Ohio, and Basel, Switzerland. Salt Lake City Art Center will host a traveling solo exhibition of the artist’s work in 2006.
The exhibition closes on Saturday, October 8.L.A. Louver is open Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and by appointment. Validated parking is available.