A stereotype about Willa Nasatir’s native Los Angeles is that it’s a city obsessed with surfaces. Yet the artist’s works are a joyful exercise in the study of a surface’s depths—its layers, transparencies, reflections, films—challenging the eye to decode form via sundry smears and shimmers. The sextet of pieces on view here—three acrylic-on-canvas paintings and a trio of photographs printed on Plexi—visually rhyme with one another, partly through a shared fascination with the manifold veneers they depict, stack, and obfuscate.
The painting Slice (all works 2022), features the catawampus wheel of an automobile, which is also a halved lemon. Warm and cool colors spill over one another, and certain forms drip so heavily that they evoke 1960s psychedelia. A glance at Kiss #2 might first remind one of a biology textbook’s cross-sectional illustrations of human organs richly layered with tissues and cells until the eye rests on the unmistakable outline of . . . a lawn chair. Go in deeper and you can start to see the eponymous osculation, though it’s tricky to, um, “make out” through all the partially overlapping coats of semitranslucent paint.
The photographs depict reflective forms (jars, shards of pottery, a deadbolt lock) set upon or lodged into reflective surfaces (mirrors? Mylar?) picturing glass and sky. While each image has at its center a distinctive and absurd object (a pair of pareidolically stacked electric sockets, a shell jammed into a keyhole) what captures one’s attention is not necessarily the cardinal subject, but the surfeit of surfaces all around.
In a place with too few clouds like LA, color is always somehow muted, blasted by the sun. All the work in Nasatir’s show at Gaylord Apartments (a light-filled space on the top floor of a mostly residential building at the edge of Koreatown) appears sun bleached. This quality calls to mind the dual meanings of the word exposure, both in terms of vulnerability and the photographic process that reveals imagery via chemicals and light—nothing superficial about that.