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Fade Out (From White)
Fade Out (From Black)
Phase Pre-Portrait (3)
Les Femme D'Alger #10
Les Femme D'Alger #10 (Detail)
Les Femme D'Alger #10 (Detail)
Les Femme D'Alger #10 (Detail)
Les Femme D'Alger #11
Ah La La
Chips and Pieces (Love and Luck)

Incredulous Zealots

Analia Saban , Annie Lapin, Asad Faulwell & Jeni Spota

12 October – 19 November 2011

Josh Lilley is delighted to announce the opening on Tuesday 11th October of Incredulous Zealots a group exhibition featuring work by four LA-based artists — Analia Saban, Annie Lapin, Asad Faulwell, and Jeni Spota.

"Psychologically aggressive zealously dedicated relentlessly driven exuding religious fervour; all apt phrases to describe the four young Los Angeles artists participating in this exhibition. Their work is driven by an obsession to paint and then maintain control of their medium — either through the way their ideas actuate themselves, or by controlling the material itself. It appears these four artists do not take any aspect of the painting process for granted, neither its history nor its physicality.

It might seem strange that an artist from Los Angeles would be so intense, so consumed by detail and control. How does so much tension manifest in endless stretches of sunny days? Then again, when we view these four young artists' work, we have to remember their predecessors — Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Ed Ruscha etc. — whose most innovative and outstanding works are psychologically disturbed, subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle negotiations between strictures of reality and fantasy. Alternative religion also has its long history in the city; fanaticism and organisation are the earmarks of the Dianetics movement or the celebrity-studded Kabbalah Centre, while smaller episodes, such as Charles Manson's homegrown cult and its tragic, outrageous ending, found a voice. It is hard to put a finger on the pulse that makes Los Angeles a home to these strange niches, as the city has always been a safe haven where outsiders become insiders by bringing dreams to their fullest expression. The eternally good weather seals their desires under a hopeful veneer that eventually cracks in the dry climate. As Los Angeles culture has proven, too many sunny days can beat shadows into the mind. LA's dark underbelly is indeed a well-cultivated and fertile ground.

Asad Faulwell (b. 1982, Caldwell, ID) makes paintings as homages to the forgotten women of the Algerian War. When her soldiers were losing their war of independence against the French, their Muslim wives and sisters stepped outside of their prescribed submissive roles and made themselves battle ready. Faulwell's works are intricately painted — eerie and poetic black and white portraits of these unique women, based on photographs taken during the time that they were on trial in the French courts. His paintings seem more like nest eggs where the women are finally celebrated and cradled within brightly colored, elaborate, repetitive arrangements — reminiscent both of Henri Matisse's decorative patterning as well as Faulwell's own Iranian/Islamic tradition of geometric design.

Jeni Spota (b. 1982, New York, NY) relishes the act of manipulating the slow, stiff material of paint, organizing its excess into a painterly, dimensional image. Her small, intense works, sometimes up to two inches deep in oil paint, depict religious icons, traditional Italian Renaissance images, and compositions of hundreds of cherubic angels with haloes. These works appear complicated at the outset, but when read as personal iconic documents of Spota's life, they take on an intimate warmth albeit to obsessively clutch to one's personal memories by re-inserting them into larger histories.

The work of Annie Lapin (b. 1978, Washington, D.C.) is a dynamic, grappling journey with the frustratingly immutable two-dimensional surface of painting. The formative power of primitive art, examining the initial human impulse to create images such as are seen in cave paintings, is the current focus of her work — seeking ways to convey the basic human instinct in an all encompassing image or archetype. Layers of colour fog over a distant view in some of her paintings, where perhaps Lapin herself is searching for an elusive truth. Sometimes her work has a Turneresque effect in which colors and shapes hurtle around the canvas in a fury. Her paintings may not always yield a metaphysical epiphany but they do show the inner workings of a devoted seeker.

Analia Saban (b. 1980, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is the disciplinarian of the group. Her studio is a veritable factory of experimentations dedicated to the dissection of a painting. Saban burns, cuts and destroys her painting surfaces with lasers threatening them with annihilation but then transmuting them into their residual, final form — sometimes as delicate as paper cutouts. It is the mistakes she tries not to make that yield pulchritude, the carefully considered look of an intentional accident. The final result is a conceptual, visually minimal object in which the history of painting is brought to bear, her judgement and its verdict being the beautifully inevitable result: another painting entering into the world.

Los Angeles artists believe in the act of painting even if at times it becomes a tool of self-manipulation, mutilation, and control. Yet historically, painting at its very best has done no worse than torture its creator only to draw him into the creation of more works. The unspoken agreement in most centers of artmaking today is that painting cannot be made without a heaping dose of irony. In Los Angeles though, a painter gets emotional, obsessively passionate about his or her mode of expression, making certain that they are rigorously hunting down every stage of their process. These artists scrutinise, fervently question, delve into dark psychologies and demand that painting be something more. Yet all the while they persist with their chosen medium earnest in their scepticism, always in love with paint itself.

- Lara Wisniewski

Wisniewski is a freelance arts writer and curator based in Los Angeles, California. She is currently finishing her first novel, Notes of Passage.