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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

May 02, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

"Artificial Paradise" is the title of an eclectic group show that brings together artists as wide ranging as Robert Yarber, Michael McMillen and Llyn Foulkes in an attempt to explore some of the more painterly elements of that slippery "genre" called Neo-Surrealism. The title is taken from Baudelaire, although it has more to do with a 1985 German exhibition of the same name that examined painting and art collecting as a form of psychological and aesthetic escapism.

While much of the work parallels the stylistic pluralism of, say, George Condo or Jiri Georg Dokoupil, it is less conceptually unified in terms of merely recycling art history as didactic kitsch. One can certainly spot traces of De Chirico, Tanguy and Picasso in the static pastiches of Will Mentor, or the muscular influence of Guston in David Humphrey's fluid dream imagery, yet for the most part the exhibit is more notable for its unabashed mannerism than for any insights into the subconscious narrative. Here irrational free association and sublimated ego are buried in the excesses of the painterly act itself. Images exist as a labyrinth of familiar signs and dangling metaphors that merely add up to the sum of their own confusion, much like a baroque reinterpretation of the metaphysical world of Jose Luis Borges.

Such surface heterogeneity doesn't necessarily make for interesting art, however. It's easier to be deliberately enigmatic, as in the work of David True or Wade Hoefer, than to create work that's conceptually and visually complex. An exception is Scottish painter Steven Campbell. Through deliberate, seemingly dilettantish quotation--Chia-like figures in Landseer settings, illogical references to P. G. Wodehouse--and claustrophobic compositions that blur illusion and reality through spatial dislocation, he presents a world that is equally innocent, fantastical and intoxicating. In short, the real world of Baudelaire, where "man wends his way through forests of symbols which look at him with their familiar glances." (Asher/Faure, 612 N. Almont Drive, to May 17.)

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