Rudder: Ray Barsante and Ammon Rost
Even against a headwind, a sailboat can make forward progress, tacking back and forth by adjusting the sails and
steering the rudder. The process is slow and indirect. With no rudder, no way to point toward a destination, the boat
loses its agency and drifts mindlessly with the wind. With this simple yet integral component in mind, ltd los angeles
presents Rudder, a two-person exhibition of paintings and ceramics by Ammon Rost and Ray Barsante.
In the fallout of a broken heart, specific and at times odd provocations emerge to elicit bittersweet emotions- the
smell of a candle, a cat food commercial, a house with a triangular window. It changes person to person, but our
brains insist that we ascribe emotional significance to seemingly unrelated, otherwise trivial occurrences. Ammon
Rost’s paintings for Rudder document a production of unforeseen romantic narratives, where every inclusion, every
stroke or line or erasure either comes directly from a real experience, or becomes a representation of one. Every
mark a memory.
As a collection, these paintings depict the real-time and incremental development of a language wrought from Rost’s
life. His encoded, diaristic narratives serve as a Rorschach test, where a composition’s level of abstraction correlates
to our ability to find our own emotions and difficulties in it. Though elements are not overtly identifiable, their power is
in their ability to make strong and indirect implications about their identity. Hair and hips and eyes and text.
These canvases are complex but clean, where elements of scrawled, brushed, aerosolized, and smeared paint
organize into groups, separated by blank canvas like big, deliberate breaks between nonlinear paragraphs. Much
of the paintings are not painted, and some of what is painted is wiped out, de-painted, turned into an ether of vague
recollection. We get the sense that this is a deeply personal and neurotic process. The paint that manages to
appear amidst the blank space and avoid deletion must carry strong significance.
While we can attempt to decipher the mood, mindset, and the events that led to a particular composition, the real
altruism is in our relationship to the language. Feelings and fragments of clothing and oddly specific hairstyles
emerge with great difficulty to describe a series of otherwise trivial occurrences for our waiting brains to interpret.
Where Rost’s marks imply representations of events in a personal narrative, Ray Barsante’s ceramic forms imply
functions and historical conventions. Initially, the ceramic works consisted of vases or urns, exaggerated in their
proportions with handles like a vestigial relic of antiquity, wimpy and unable to support the huge structures to which
they were attached. Recognizable in application but impossible in practice.
In this collection of works for Rudder, greater mutations arise that overshadow what classical elements remain.
Though always surrogate bodies due to their fullness and apparent mass, now distinctive appendages provide
more unspecified functionality and personification: legs, orifices, a gut. There is a real difficulty in building large
ceramic structures, a struggle with material and gravity that these works exemplify, drooping and craning
improvisationally due to their heft.
Barsante leans on conventions of the medium to provide a framework of rules to adhere to and avoid. Water-color
paint, delicate and applied without pattern or iconography, seeps into the clay, staining like blueberry juice on a
towel, primitive or juvenile in its simplicity. Color follows form, largely unregulated. We can only view a portion of
each piece at a given moment- they require a commitment of time and a short walk to see entirely, and after we’ve
done that, we’ve likely forgotten the specifics of form and palette on the other side.
Hand-built but mimicking thrown clay, the sculptures appear to be in progress, with finger indentations and
unsmoothed lumps. Rather than incomplete, the pieces are mid-metamorphosis: paused and distorted in transition
between two phases, one of classical influence, and one unknown, figurative, abstract, organic, where the resulting
sculptures avoid definitive description. Like the tendency to assign intentions and a voice to a pet, we watch these
objects perform, animated in shape and color, balancing, swinging, and grunting sound at one another.
In these two intensely cohesive groups of work, we identify two distinct, invented languages with no grammatical
exceptions, no outliers, where bright, civil colors keep them from devolving into worrisome or grotesque.
Venue: Ltd Los Angeles, 1119 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90019
Closing: 19 May 2018