Roy Dowell: Roy Dowell

Various Small Fires is pleased to present a solo exhibition of recent works by Roy Dowell, opening on Sunday, September 8, 2013 with a reception from 4pm to 6pm, and closing on October 19, 2013.


Dowell’s paintings, collages, and sculptures sample and re-mix modernism, crafts, vernacular culture, and ethnic art in color-saturated palimpsests that float the viewer outside of history and hierarchy.In the paintings and collages shapes of flat color are in dynamic interplay with radiating lines, textile trompe l’oeil, and cuttings from billboards, street posters, and newspapers. These works are grounded in Dowell’s experience of Southern California: roadside advertising, patterns from mid-century modern interiors, Mexican cultural artifacts, and elements of desert flora. Through Dowell’s manipulations, the abstract and the specific are transposed. Color-separation photo images from old highway billboards are meticulously cut-up and re-configured at intimate scale to read as pure texture. Capital letters form a bold visual grid resistant to deciphering. Shapes of eccentric geometry provoke while eluding memetic recall.


Dowell’s sculptures in paper, cardboard, and acrylic paint are totems transmogrified from this primal universe. They are of apparent but indeterminate purpose: a hybrid of Oceanic and African mask styles is uncanny yet familiar; a black and white disc mounted on a conical base is rigorously reasoned. The confidence and wit of their construction ironically imbue the charisma of relics despite their basic materials and methods; they fascinate with the mysterious aura of an unknown sect, either centuries old or recovered from the future.


Roy Dowell (b. 1951 in New York) lives and works in Los Angeles and was featured in the 2012 “Made in L.A.” biennial curated by the Hammer Museum and LA><ART. An early student of CalArts, Dowell in 1989 founded the OTIS Graduate Fine Arts Program and still serves as its Chair. His work is in the permanent collections of LACMA, MOCA (Los Angeles), The Hammer Museum, SF MOMA, MCA San Diego, the Jumex Collection, the Eli Broad Collection, and many other significant institutional and private collections. Exhibition history includes: LACMA, Hammer Museum, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Aspen Art Museum, and The Drawing Center. Reviews of Dowell’s work have been published in Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Art & Auction, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.