GGLA has one of the best shows in LA at the moment that we hope you can catch before it comes down this week, featuring a fantastic trio of artists that have been on our radar in 2024. GIFTWORX three4one is a group exhibition by Los Angeles based artists Jack Alving, Henry Fey and Mia Scarpa. Within an immersive installation that converts the gallery space to the feel of a dollar store or smoke shop, the divisions between art and commerce, good taste and bad, and authenticity and artifice are all blurred and called into question. Pedestals emblazoned with Mountain Dew logos hold ceramic vessels, battered shelving units display a mixture of paintings and other objects, a trompe l’oeil sticker machine demands to take our mom’s quarters, and a bright yellow border listing what items we may or may not find within this store wraps around the top of the gallery, acting as a strange mantra. GIFTWORX three4one operates as a parallel universe–a receptacle for the dusty nostalgia and bizarre aesthetic meanderings of late-stage capitalism, all refracted and regurgitated through the wide-ranging practices of Alving, Fey and Scarpa.

Jack Alving creates ceramics that collide disparate formal languages in a way that is so natural and convincing that it becomes difficult to pick apart where one reference point ends and the next begins. We see the ancient history of pottery smashed into the shouting text of gas station virility treatments or the sharp and boyishly militaristic aesthetics of large scale fireworks. The angular ornamentations of medieval reliquaries are enmeshed perfectly with the formal qualities of a mortar cannon, the words “doom box” emblazoned on the side in a relief font all glazed in a nuclear fade of colors. Alving’s expert handling of glaze and saturated color provides the artist’s forms with a deeply radiant finish which dazzles and furthers the viewer’s confusion in looking at these deeply layered objects. Furthering this conversation are the introduction of unexpected yet perfectly at home materials such as shark’s teeth which protrude from the rims and sides of vessels, circling in a rhythmic yet ominous fashion, or trompe l’oeil cowrie shells, each recalling the coveted necklace your classmate might bring home from their vacation to Maui in 1992.

Henry Fey builds deeply technical paintings through an elaborate process of taping and applying acrylic paint, layering color, building form, and conveying meaning through thin overlaying diagonal strips of color. Fey’s paintings feel as if you’ve taken a magnifying glass to a full color printed newspaper photograph, breaking down the process of image making into all its component parts. We find our brain manually shifting focus between Fey’s hard edged bands of colors which together form a blurry image of a witch mask, a mushroom hatted Smurf or a Zig Zag rolling papers package. Though hyper contemporary, Fey’s referential works also call on such art historical precedents as the cross hatching of Dürer, or the vibrating compositions of Op art pioneer Bridget Riley. Through expert control, Fey toys with the viewer and our visual culture as a whole, breaking down images, symbols and meaning to the point in which they teeter on the edge of legibility and decomposition.

Artist Mia Scarpa fully employs the airbrush, embracing and reveling in all the campy nostalgia and cross cultural references that accompany this relatively modern tool. Greeting viewers as they enter GIFTWORX three4one, is a lifesize airbrushed figure returning an almost defiant gaze while sipping a Bud Light through a straw, blond highlights and a crop top giving way to bad tattoos and distressed low rise flared jeans. Scarpa’s play on the classic cut out “beer girl” perfectly situates the exhibition in that strange liminal space that is the gas station snack shop, with all its implicit and explicit threads of desire and expectation thrust at the viewer at each turn. Scarpa’s ability to emulate and reconfigure faded elements of pop culture lodged deep within our subconscious is truly uncanny, whether it be a battered Mead© 3-hole folder featuring a blue-eyed baby white tiger outstretching a paw out to touch a butterfly, or a sticker machine in which we must make the hard choice between South Park characters or quippy one liners such as “I just realized. I don’t care.”. The artist’s paintings dance a fine line–embracing and critiquing the absurdity of our visual culture in equal measure, through the act of meditating and painstakingly dredging up and recreating imagery and ephemera from our sordid past.