87 Newtown Lane
June 8–June 30, 2020
The titles of Elizabeth Ibarra’s paintings invoke the sun, the planet Mars, a meteor, and, most often, the moon, but there’s something distinctly earthy about her rough-hewn aesthetic. And distant echoes of precursors such as Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, Louise Bourgeois, and A.R. Penck—artists who knew how to lend their sophistication an air of naïveté by combining pictogrammatic images with visceral abstract marks—give her works a sense of deliberate untimeliness. Are her recurrent but never identically formed stick figures (always one per work) avatars of the artist herself? Maybe, but what makes her woozy visions of a stranger in a strange land so affecting is precisely their lack of particularity. I have long been fascinated by the philosopher Timothy Williamson’s claim that “our contact with the world is as direct in vague thought as it is in any thought”; Ibarra’s pictorial chronicles of a figure feeling its way through an indistinctly perceived terrain, one full of warmth but often bathed in nocturnal obscurity, suggest the artist is in very close contact with a world I, too, recognize in my own approximate way. It would be easy to attribute Ibarra’s outsider perspective to her being a foreigner in a country that keeps seeming more and more unwelcoming to “others”—born in Guadalajara, Mexico, she lives in Los Angeles—but her works remind us that we should all wonder at being marooned on a strange planet.