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Christopher Knight Pulitzer Prize 2020 Los Angeles Times Les Rogers

By Christopher Knight

March 9th, 2004

Fragmented yet comprehensive

For painters like Sigmar Polke and David Salle, stylistic fragmentation has functioned as a critical rationale -- a way to break any “unified field theory” of art. For New York artist Les Rogers, stylistic fragmentation is itself a style.

In five self-assured recent paintings at the Happy Lion Gallery, Rogers reveals great manual dexterity with the brush. A thick, wide, sinuous slather of purple, cream and gray oil paint might magically transform itself into a striped banner unfurling in an unseen breeze. A young woman’s bare midriff disappears into a lavish layer of agitated color. A visual journey across a big horizontal canvas covered with a catalog of painterly marks becomes a walk down a country lane aglow in autumnal colors.

Facility with well-traveled paths between frank figurative representation and allusive gestural abstraction is much in evidence. Each of Rogers’ canvases is almost like a group exhibition all rolled into one -- a compendium of mostly Expressionist feints and parries from the last 50 years, starting with Willem de Kooning, all filtered through a Pop art atmosphere reminiscent of early James Rosenquist.

In one work, a swollen line evokes a breast, mostly through its proximity to a torso. Fingers emerge, as if peeling back shapes within the painting. A speedy ribbon of color twists through white space, like the experience of rolling over in sheets.

A large picture of a rock musician in action on stage (he recalls Iggy Pop, punk’s elder statesman) features an excellent smear of a mouth. Indulgent sensual experience is Rogers’ principal focus, with the promiscuity of style adding a salubrious edge.

The Happy Lion Gallery, 963 Chun King Road, Chinatown, (213) 625-1360, through April 3. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays.

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