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International Parks

Debut solo show of artist Leslie Shows at Jack Hanley Gallery

A quick online search for the name "Leslie Shows" yields a tiny handful of links, mostly simple listings of her current solo show, International Parks, at Jack Hanley Gallery. Surprisingly, Shows holds no discernable Internet following. There are no blogs bantering about her "radness" or drunken party photos posted following her openings. This hype-free aura might be viewed as an accomplishment -- as a mark of purity, almost.

With only a single year of graduate school behind her at the California College of the Arts, Shows is just beginning to exhibit her work on a larger scale. This show at Jack Hanley marks her second solo project, the first having premiered at San Francisco's ODC Gallery in 2001. Shows' visual language belies the brevity of her exhibition history, as her mixed media collage works reveal a sophisticated understanding of spatial materiality.

While wondering around the gallery, one is made to imagine Shows bunkered down in her studio for days on end, painstakingly applying the small pieces of confetti, magazine snippets, fine glitter, and the sundry other bits that form her rather large scale works. These thousands upon thousands of small dots connect with one another atop hand-rendered surfaces to form beautifully intricate landscapes.

In "Subduction & Inscription Sites Where What Was Underground is Shown on the SurfaceI" (2004), Shows has turned the landscape out from inside, scattering the shattered pieces to form a new biosphere. Trees, water, and the surrounding land feel magical thus crystallized and transformed by the sudden change. As the most eerily still composition of the seven exhibited, "Salt Field With Attributes" (2005) delves deeply into a surreal sort of space, where pools of rainbow lava bleed across an otherwise delicate field of milky fallout. Shows' collage technique reaches its most excruciating form here, as Salt Field undulates with textural detail and an intimate minutia. A more painterly hand reveals itself in "Complex #13" (2004), where mountains lord over the valley below before rising, like Hokusai's Mt. Fuji, into the sky above. At the range's base, a crumpled little castle looks over a modern-day Hadrian's Villa, replete with palms, cocktails, and what appears to be a bar or hot tub -- either way, a party seems imminent. This sense of absurdist fun carries over into "Megatron Ferris Wheel Excavator, Psyclone & Slag Piles" (2005), where a bona fide carnival overtakes an otherwise despondent industrial wasteland, colored by its own mineral runoff.

Shows' sensibility -- in technique, especially -- is reminiscent of Swedish artists (and partners) Jockum Nordström and Karen "Mamma" Andersson. While Nordström's drawings create a similar sort of space using layered strips of paper and collaged-on elements, Andersson's landscapes are folkloric, almost dream-like in feeling. Her sometimes somber, even spooky scenes still maintain a strong sense of energy, of impending movement, even. Shows' work shares a similar seriousness, a hearty fortitude that eschews flashiness for solidity, haste for longevity. It's no wonder that she isn't gossiped about online.

Leslie Shows: International Parks
Jack Hanley Gallery
exhibit runs through 7.9.05