Chris Ballantyne: “Transcendental Divide/Transitory Space” at Zevitas Marcus

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“Over the Falls,” 2015, Chris Ballantyne, Acrylic on panel, 48″ x 64″
Photo: courtesy Zevitas Marcus

A curious sense of dislocation permeates the works on view by Chris Ballantyne in the recent exhibition titled “Transcendental Divide/Transitory Space” at Zevitas Marcus. Just inside the front door to the gallery-a newer addition to La Cienega Blvd since this past fall-the entryway is freshly painted to depict an abstracted landscape as seen from a bird’s eye point of view. The forms are simplified: the grass is a single shade of not-quite Kelly Green bisected with an arced gray highway curve, capped off with a solid Cornflower Blue sky. Once inside, the gallery presents hauntingly melancholic, almost Hopper-esque, paintings in which signs of human life frequently abound in the form of houses, parking lots, billboards, pools, even a barge on the open sea, but the human figure itself is noticeably absent. The works are similarly reductive and the perspective is slightly askew, just enough to cause a bit of unease in viewing the variety of landscapes-natural, urban and sea-that Ballantyne puts forth. As a result, the paintings act as poignant reminders of the fragility of the human condition, touching topics as varied as political, environmental, financial or all of the above.

The Brooklyn-based artist is not heavyhanded in this endeavor; the stoicism of the compositions is often paired with off-kilter, dry-witted titles. Ziggurat (Cul de Sac) and Over the Falls (both 2015), among the largest works on view, each present what may at first seem to follow the familiar mantra of the real estate market: location, location, location. The prime position at the top of the hill carved into future housing plots, the space once occupied by the cella of the ziggurat now appears the future site of a ticky-tacky housing development. In the latter work, three isolated structures occupy an expansive desert vista, with one-a modernist-style residence-sits on the precipice of “the falls.” The painting seems prescient; echoing the tragic nightly broadcast running concurrent with the exhibition documenting the plight of homes and apartments on the verge of similar fate in Pacifica, CA. “Transitory space,” indeed, though hardly “transcendental” in consequence. An earlier painting titled Parking Lot with Standing Water (2014), presents a cacophony of parking spaces adjoining at impossibly acute angles to navigate-a purgatory for evil and impatient drivers everywhere. A solitary structure, reminiscent of the once-familiar, now-obsolete Fotomats, sit awash in one of the parking lot puddles. As with the earlier works, this quick nod to the past points toward the unanticipated consequence of progress.