By presenting them in an unorthodox context, as fine art, Roy Dowell converts familiar and somewhat debased visual motifs into something strange and exotic. Employing every color in the crayon box, Dowell's acrylic and sand paintings suggest '50s linoleum tile patterning that has been slightly rearranged to resemble mandalas--mandalas designed by a spider on LSD perhaps. (Remember those quaint experiments?) This is fairly wacky work, which is not to imply that Dowell hasn't studied art assiduously--the references are all present and accounted for.
Dowell keeps his method and madness well veiled, and no easily grasped system of visual organization reveals itself. This makes for work that's exhaustingly shrill; there's no place in these paintings where the eye comfortably comes to rest as each area nudges you on to the next. And it's a fairly busy midway we're traveling here, alluding as it does to the entire spectrum of civilization. Visual quotations from Pop Art, Cubism and Stuart Davis butt up against a primitive passage here, an area of fake wood texture there.
You've got yer bits of graffiti, squeegeed patchwork color fields, crosses, wreaths, stars, floral motifs and configurations of large Op Art dots. You've got yer kitsch kidney shapes, flames, spheres, maze-like networks of lines, diamond shapes and wreaths--all in extremely florid colors. This is TV generation art taken to the ninth power, overloaded with data and so hip they've almost given up the ghost entirely; these pictures refuse to remove their sunglasses even when they're indoors. (Rosamund Felsen, 669 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Aug. 30.)