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Storms of color wash through Mary Weatherford’s latest work

Mary Weatherford, "Animals," 2017. (David Kordansky Gallery)

Thirteen new Color Field paintings by Mary Weatherford include several that are the largest she has made. Nuanced and self-assured, they show her working in top form.

At just under 10 feet by 20 feet, each of four mural-size abstractions in the first room at David Kordansky Gallery envelopes a viewer’s field of vision. Clouds of vaporous color slide from thin to dense, shifting hue along the way, their visual energies drawn by tangled movements of the brush or sponge with which the paint was applied.

In some areas, the withdrawal of color by scraping or wiping clean confounds a logical sense of cumulative hue. Impossibly, the white ground underneath sometimes seems to overlap the color, like waves lapping on shore. The strange effect is further enhanced by the linen support that Weatherford employs: woven with a substantial tooth, it lets bits of color puddle within the threads.

Subtraction and addition divides and multiplies the aqueous forms. The surface is surprisingly lively, speedy here and languorous there, agitated now and stretching out again. When a viewer pulls in close to scrutinize painterly details, the color of the irregular, handmade lengths of neon glass-tubing and its wiring come into play.

Mary Weatherford’s new murals are the largest paintings she has made. (Fredrik Nilsen / David Kordansky Gallery )

“Animals” is the most richly arrayed painting, heavy in purples and mango orange, flanked by gray and tan. Applied to the surface, one of two horizontal neon lines in bright yellow slips into deep orange halfway across, the juncture between them glowing bright green. A bit of blue at each end abuts the gray wiring on the left and black on the right, purposefully draped like a three-dimensional line of drawing. Chromatic juxtaposition of evanescent neon and luxurious paint opens up visual space.

Like Helen Frankenthaler or Sam Francis, Weatherford approaches monumental painting on canvas as a sensuous species of watercolor — typically an intimate medium of modest size, but here washing across an entire wall. A few smaller, vertical paintings in another room recall Chinese and Japanese landscape scrolls, gracefully merged with Western abstraction.

Weatherford looks like she’s having fun exploring the possibilities, which broke wide open in her work a few years ago. The pleasure is contagious.

David Kordansky Gallery, 5130 W. Edgewood Place, Los Angeles. Through May 6; closed Sundays and Mondays. (323) 935-3030, www.davidkordanskygallery.com

christopher.knight@latimes.com

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