Daniel Gordon: Selective Color at M+B, Los Angeles

Daniel Gordon, Still Life with Vegetables and Tulips, 2017. Courtesy M+B

Daniel Gordon: Selective Color at M+B through June 24 could and possibly should be the set for a music video. It’s easy to imagine Feist or even Sheryl Crow dancing in front of his still lifes and patterned abstractions, a smart cinematographer playing up the work’s meta sunniness, drawing attention to its twodimensionality and aesthetic precision.

Gordon makes the still lifes he photographs by first going to Google. He borrows images from the Internet, alters them digitally (or doesn’t), prints them out and props them up. Once he’s set up a scene, he photographs it with an 8×10 large-format camera, so the process is both digital and analogue and, in recent years, his images have become increasingly bright and color saturated, though the colors don’t necessarily have much bearing in reality. He titled this show, in fact, after the Photoshop process of selecting and altering colors in an image file. The works have a California-ready quality, even though Gordon works in New York. The palette recalls David Hockney’s pool paintings and Alex Israel’s appropriation of sunset-colored movie backdrops.

These photographs invite conversations about form and process more than about content or concept — when he talks about the work, the artist discusses how sculpture, photography, and painting can come together. He installed Still Life with Vegetables and Tulips (2017) on a back wall painted yellow and brown, next to a wallpapered image of an onion stalk so large it looks like a human-sized cactus. A potted plant and its shadow stands in the middle, beside a basket of onions, a vase of tulips, and an elegant blue pitcher. There is no reason for these objects to be together except to comprise a still life, and this image seems especially self-aware of its purpose.

The press release references Marcel Duchamp, Paul Cézanne, and Matisse, while a recent Artforum write-up by Courtney Fiske added Cubism to the mix. Such historical references make sense, given the cut-ups, flattening, and abstracting being done. But Gordon seems much more aligned with his contemporaries: photographers Hannah Whitaker and Matt Lipps, or painter-photographer Francesca DiMattio, artists who have learned to combine old-fashioned collaging with internet-influenced image-altering techniques. In Gordon’s work, the mundane is amped-up, unhinged from reality and turned into something formally fantastic because it can be.