Los Angeles Times

by Susan Kandel October 3, 1997

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1997

By SUSAN KANDEL
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Beauty In ‘Comfort’: Kristin Leachman’s new paintings at Newspace are persuasive on a number of counts. In another situation, this might say something about a young artist’s lack of resolve or need to cover all the bases. Here, however, it reveals a great deal about Leachman’s ambition and her refusal to pit the theoretical against the beautiful.

Some of these images depict grids of coiled. pieces of fabric; others, wayward braids of ribbon. Leachman is interested in illusion and its extreme-trompe l’oeil. Indeed, these paintings are at once like photographs, true to every detail, and like concentrated essences, distilling details into larger truth.

“Comfort” is the show’s title,which makes sense at first, considering that the reference point is those handcrafted rugs that are passed down from generation to generation. Yet the paintings’ technical perfection-and the fact that trompe l’oeil transforms the real into a fetish-renders the promise of comfort an unlikely one.

Leachman’s work also tweaks those perennial modernist favorites-grid and stripe paintings. Recasting modernist masterpieces via domestic materials and processes is a familiar feminist tactic, from Rachel Lachowicz’s lipstick Serras to Didi Dunphy’s embroidered homages to Mondrian. Yet Leach­man never perfects the fine art of critique, a genre that looks increasingly illusory, for it requires a clinical detachment that few artists can actually muster. Leachman’s paintings are smart but hardly unimpassioned, luscious but self­ aware. That’s an impressive set of adjectives to have earned by your second solo show.

Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave.,
(213) 469-9353, through Oct. 18.