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LOS ANGELES — Aidan Koch’s minimalist storytelling is as soft as it is powerful. The smooth surfaces of her orderly pencil-on-paper drawings and small-scale sculptures are echoed by her delicate fabrications, which instill feelings of a story while leaving enough room for viewers to formulate their own experiences among her pieces. Artwork this soft and delicate runs the risk of being overlooked in an assertive large city like Los Angeles, and to embrace the simple words “pencil on paper” is unusual in our time of mega installations and larger-than-life art-entertainment experiences. But this divergence is quintessential to Koch’s creative bravery, as demonstrated by her new show, Aidan Koch: A to Zed.
This disparity is heightened by the exhibit’s specific venue: Park View, a 300-square-foot apartment/gallery hybrid in Los Angeles’s Echo Park neighborhood. The unique space is a fully operational gallery running on a miniature scale in the most intimate of ways because you are continuously aware of the idea of this public yet private art-viewing experience. Park View is symbiotically related to Koch’s enchanting pieces. The gallery layout allows you to look at your own relationship to viewing and consuming artwork because of the nontraditional viewing experience. The soft-spoken, small-scale art invites viewers in for a bite-size interaction with these impressive pieces, all of which contribute to a larger theme. The show operates as a broken-apart comic with a story of relationships told through its objects and its curious yet quiet pieces of paper.
Koch is in full control of the space. She masters the single-paper page like it is her stage and creates a confident floating environment that references the forthright structure of comic books in a graceful and impactful way that does not require paneling or elaborate explanation. The show can be digested as viewers ebb and flow from the sculptures to the drawings and back again: The sculptures and fabricated works all cross-reference Koch’s intimate drawings. The connections between human and animal domestication are explored by her varied methods of recreating images of tamed relationships.
One of these relationships is furthered in a small side gallery — aka the closet. Here, Koch has replicated a hawk stand in “Perch” by fabricating and sculpting each component to imitate ones traditionally used for falconry, an ancient discipline that trains birds of prey to hunt for the benefit of humans. The floor around the installation is littered with feathers, leaving us with only a slight ghostly memory of the bond. Another piece that highlights the peculiar way animal integration is entwined with our lives is “Cobra’s Basket,” for which Koch spent time learning the art of basket-weaving. These pieces allow us to sit with the ideas of these varied cultural connections we have with animals.
Human relationships are the subject of Koch’s pencil-and-paper drawings; one standout piece is “A Is For.” This drawn-out image is comprised of four prettily drawn nude women surrounded by negative white space to emphasize their vulnerability. The figures are delicately linked together through contact points made by their bodies or hair to spell out the letter “A” in a floating fashion that almost looks like a snapshot of dance caught in mid-motion.
Aidan uses subtle gestures and signs through her 2D and 3D work to guide the viewer through different open-ended visual stories about our intimate associations with ourselves, animals, and the objects that connect, us both culturally and historically. The internal conversations the viewer has with himself are able to flourish in the warm, cozy atmosphere of the Park View gallery space, which acts as a refuge amid the surrounding sprawl of Los Angeles and embraces this city’s do-it-yourself attitude. Koch commands this creative authority to demonstrate her commitment to the delicate yet self-assured artwork she produces.
Aidan Koch: A to Zed continues at Park View (836 S. Park View Street #8, Echo Park) through April 22.
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