Beautiful, Not Pretty at Wönzimer Gallery – Art and Cake

Beautiful, Not Pretty, Installation View, Wönzimer Gallery, Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker.

Experiences in Sculptural Poetry at New Wönzimer Gallery Space

Wönzimer Gallery, Los Angeles
Through August 19, 2022

Written by Genie Davis
Beautiful, Not Pretty, now at Wönzimer Gallery in Los Angeles, is the opening exhibition of a new location for the downtown gallery, and it marks an excellent beginning. The space itself is open and welcoming, with a separate space for some comfortable furnishings and bar, and artists’ studios down the hall. Gallerists Aidan Nelson and Alaïa Parhizi offer a stellar freshman exhibition in their new space.

The show consists of sculptural works by five female artists, and the pieces are honestly quite beautiful, if unconventionally so. Using highly unique materials, artists Daniela Soberman, Meeson Pae, Alicia Piller, Cybele Rowe, and Ann Weber each bring vibrant work that throbs with contemporary culture and is shaped from diverse mediums not typically associated with traditional sculptural constructs.

Daniela Soberman continues an ongoing conversation with large interlocking sculptures, shaping mysterious and magical giant puzzle pieces into buildings, villages, cities, and other forms of architecture. Here, working in polystyrene with a lime plaster finish, Soberman offers several pieces, including the larger “Conversation III,” which recalls images of Stonehenge – if Stonehenge were an urban village.

Working in Hydrocal, urethane, and acrylic medium, Meeson Pae has created works that look deceptively soft – which they definitely are not. Her “Formations (Array)” looks as if it were as light as foam, an airy pale pink that seems to float, comfortable cushions that have calcified and turned to stone. Her use of color, both here and in her gold and orange “Inner Outer 2022” is as compelling as her use of texture, as she creates works that depict her own rich reflections of the natural world.

Alicia Piller is also a highly tactile artist, with works here that feel like captured pools of light. Her “Mourning in Red, White, Black, and Blue” uses vinyl, recycled paper, plastic, glass beads and bullet casings among other materials – along with a laser print newspaper headline concerning the recent El Paso, Texas shooting. Mournful and angry, bold, and glowing with an inchoate sense of the wrongness of the world, this is a masterful revelation of defiance. As an artist, she takes fierce traumas and grounds them in shapes that resemble life forms – including the human body.

To recognize that Ann Weber’s sinuous, bold sculptures are made of cardboard and staples (albeit with a polyurethane finish) creates a moment of shock. These multi-colored creations look like the ceramic the artist once worked in; they are all colorful curve and bend and flourish, exuding vibrance and motion. In the large scale “Happiest Days of Our Lives, 41-46, 2022” strange shapes and letters flow together in ritualistic grace, while the smaller “Conundrum” is as twisted as sleeping snakes.

And finally, Cybele Rowe’s “Amuletum Menhir” is as indescribable as its name. A massive work in terms of size and substance, created of concrete and painted an inky black, the work is dragon, dinosaur, and female form, formidable and curved, tightly bound, and ready to spring. It’s a monumental work, one created in the Mojave Desert where Rowe now resides and works, and seemingly forged from its heat. Substantial in every sense of the word, in its medium and its message, the sculpture is a divine warrior emerging from a different dream.

Each of the five artists shape work that fascinates with its materials, radiates energy, and pulses with their own unique and impulsive passion. Whether making a statement on today’s lost and violent world or taking a mundane material and making it sing with substance, these expert sculptors shape superb and unusual genres for themselves, forming a narrative that viewers long to understand but are thrilled simply to experience. And that is beautiful, indeed.