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LA Times Features Alumni Steve Roden

Artwork by Steve Roden
Critic's Choice: With cardboard, tape and hands, Steve Roden paints 'A Year Without Painting'
David Pagel

The 10 new paintings in Steve Roden’s ('86 BFA Fine Arts) “A Year Without Painting” at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects look as if they were made in a rush — and not for the usual reasons.

Roden’s ferociously efficient acrylics on canvas neither suggest that he fell behind schedule and had to churn out a show, nor that he has cranked out a batch of look-alike knockoffs to meet market demand. Instead, his no-frills abstractions paint a portrait of an artist at war with himself — or at least with the last 20 years of his life, when he has made painterly magic by going slowly.

With impressive consistency, Roden has shown himself to be a master adapter, a painter who looks long and hard, doubts everything and goes back to a canvas so many times that his finished compositions have the presence of a half-dozen paintings — not to mention styles, palettes and atmospheres — piled atop one another.

The best way to engage those paintings is to meander through their labyrinthine passages, getting lost in the details. Lovely discoveries happen by accident and otherwise.

Roden made this new work after taking a year off from painting. When he went back he decided to give up on brushes and use only cardboard, masking tape and his hands. Woodcuts come to mind. As do hastily made graphics and DIY propaganda posters.

The results leave no room for leisurely perusal. Your eyes race around sharply angled compositions, restlessly and frenetically and with increasing anxiety. Space is fractured, its fragments dangerous. The palette is lean and mean. Its combinations of orange, green, pink, white and sooty brown seem random if not desperate, the straight-from-the-tube directness anything but pure.


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Photo: Jeff McLane - Image of Roden's "Morphing terrarium" 


Steve Roden's ('86 BFA Fine Arts) exhibition will be on view through March 5th. Roden collaborated with Leslie Ross-Robertson, Otis' Lab Press Assistant Manager, on several letterpress prints for the show, which are described in the article as "Subtle, delicate and dreamy".