Alan Prazniak’s Major Scale Opens at La Loma Projects, Los Angeles

November 2023

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Congratulations to Alan Prazniak on the opening of Major Scale, a solo exhibition at La Loma Projects in Los Angeles! The exhibition is on view from November 18 – December 30, 2023.

“The blank canvas is already so beautiful,” says Brooklyn-based artist Alan Prazniak. “It’s kind of terrifying to do anything to it.” To consider his work from this vantage is to see each brushstroke, gesture, and occasion of color as marring what Robert Rauschenberg called the plastic fullness of nothing. Prazniak’s prismatic canvases, laden with interrelating geometric and amorphous shapes that resemble both disparate puzzle pieces and the memory of a memory of a landscape, waver between the lost perfection of nothingness and the shimmering promise of meaning.

After Prazniak makes the first mark upon the canvas, the process unfolds as a lively conversation between himself, his canvas, and his paints. Rather than barreling toward a pre-conceived image, he wanders according to his composition’s shifting, often conflicting demands until it becomes clear, often all at once, that he’s arrived at their natural end. Loose, staccato brushstrokes alongside patches of sgraffito and scumble are interspersed with lambent planes of super-saturated hues. With marks that appear closer to convulsive acts than studied gestures, he destabilizes and deforms the rigidity of his practice’s parameters and, with it, the art historical tradition of landscape painting.

The earthen color palette, full of russet, olive, and saffron, and the occasional arboreal form or mountainous contour ground the viewer in a natural environment. Still, the picture planes provide little further in the way of signposts. What may begin as lipid pools of water, craggy rock faces, or green-brown wilds break apart into tracts of color, fields of form, and patches of texture. As you contemplate the work, any initial experience of comprehension or recognition is quickly dashed by the impossibility of cohesion. Even as you rush to rearrange, refit, and reimagine one clashing color, incongruent edge, or disparate shape, another falls akimbo; yet another comes undone. Like William Butler Yeats first observed, things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

The intimate scale of the paintings, which never exceeds 20 x 24 inches, ensures the entire picture plane, disruptions and all, is ever present in the observer’s sightline—preventing even the most revealing compositions like Inland, Among Stones, and Brandywine from ultimately coalescing. The insistence on discordance opens and enlarges one’s impression of the canvas, rendering them as expansive and inviting as works twice their size. Irresolution consistently asserts the need for imagination and invention; here, the land is simultaneously water, sky, mountain, meadows, and vista, always already just up ahead. Where an exacting replica of a mountain range can only reveal something of itself, Prazniak’s compositions depend upon the viewer’s collaboration and revelation for their full meaning.

The dynamic reveals a much-overlooked truth about the inherent difficulties of communication between artist, artwork, and audience and, subsequently, between people. Far from the straightforward transference of precise meaning from one to another, sharing and comprehending each other’s truths is an imperfect, often fraught enterprise that requires both parties’ presence, participation, and will toward understanding. The twenty-six works in Major Scale paint a compelling argument for continuing despite the barriers to reach, however imperfectly, toward each other, creating in the once blank space between a place for all our disparate parts to knock about and occasionally, miraculously, connect.

–Tara Anne Dalbow