Balzac observed that "in painting you can suddenly come upon something so huge that no one can deal with it." This sort of crisis is something that the current breed of careerist artists may never face. They seem to approach the task of painting in a rather cavalier manner. Problems of design (and image management) appear to be the extent of what they wrestle with.
A case in point is an exhibition of mixed-media work by Ford Crull. Rough, riotously colorful graffiti paintings that owe a considerable debt to Jean Michel Basquiat, Crull's pictures--harmless enough decorations--completely lack the kind of rigorous thinking that Balzac described.
Built around images that come to Crull in dreams and a vocabulary of signs and symbols whose meanings are known only to the artist, this tastefully composed work looks exactly the way people seem to think art should look right now, but it's conceptually out of focus and a bit dodgy concerning its intentions. The work is essentially about catharsis--Crull's, not ours--and toward that end he spews forth a rushing river of random emotions and memories. Unfortunately, this avalanche of data--which takes the form of hearts, numbers, a roaring purple beast, snatches of text and so forth--is left uninterpreted. Crull simply plops the stuff at our feet like a dog depositing a dead bird on the dining-room rug. Though it's momentarily diverting to be afforded a glimpse of a fellow creature's dream life, Crull fails to analyze the pictures in his head; hence, the viewer gains no insight that might aid him on his own interior journey. (Roy Boyd Gallery, 170 S. La Brea Ave., to June 3.)