David Buckingham, California Penal Code, 2007, 92 x 58 x 3 inches, cut & welded found metal

David Buckingham, Color Study #36, 2008, 26 x 52 x 3 inches, cut & welded found metal

Ex-New Yorker, now residing in LA, David Buckingham is showing a group of his metal "paintings" at OK Harris through October 11. They really aren't paintings at all, but welded constructions (the artist refers to them as sculptures) using entirely found color and materials. Yet they are pictorial in their presence, mostly rectangular in format, and surprisingly delicate in their materiality. Most striking is their array of industrial colors, aged and scarred to a luscious patina. Buckingham's work is like the secret obsession of a manic scrap metal salvage guy -- fishing loaded words and phrases from the stream of pop culture, and enlarging them into grand and beautiful icons of American grit. There's a handmade folkiness to some of these pieces, particularly the more tame works like "All the Animals Come Out at Night" and "The End", but most overcome quaintness with a boistrous toungue-in-cheek pop sarcasm that reads as a sort of swaggering switchblade Americana. Lines from movies, "Me Love You Long Time", exclamations, "Whap!", exerpts from police handbooks, "California Penal Code", along with several large multicolor replicas of infamous handguns, invoke a film noir version of the cultural underbelly. But in contrast to the offhandedness of their subjects, these objects are meticulously crafted color arrangements that reveal Buckingham's sophisticated visual intuitions. Only one of his "Color Study" pieces is in this show -- a black & white one at that -- part of a beautiful ongoing series that eliminates the verbal element to present richly colored geometric configurations that are pared down to the refined formal underpinnings of Buckingham's project.