Claude and Francois-Xavier LaLanne are a French couple who jointly show their work--sculpture, furniture, objets d'art--under the name Les LaLanne. Theirs is a whimsical, slightly decadent sensibility and they specialize in the sort of over-the-top luxury items featured in the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue.
Claude LaLanne fashions gingerbreaded gee-gaws evocative of the haunted mansion Gloria Swanson prowls in "Sunset Boulevard." The central reference in her work is Art Nouveau and she's big on alchemical symbols (snakes and so forth), gilded curlicues and exotic floral patterns. She lands her knock-out punch with three differing sets of silverware that are so scandalously ostentatious it's hard to imagine anyone outside of a Fellini film actually using them as eating utensils. Designed around the motifs of insect wings, leaves and lobster claws, this silverware is lavishly embellished to the point that it commits a sort of visual strangulation.
Francois LaLanne's work is even more eccentric; anyone in the market for a wet bar installed in a life-size sculpture of a hippopotamus? How about a life-size flock of sheep (white stone bodies, bronze ears and snout), a pair of chairs made to simulate grinning frogs, or a massive cast-iron baboon with a fireplace in its belly? You certainly can't accuse Les LaLanne of lacking imagination, nor can you fault them on grounds of craftsmanship as their work is impeccably made. But really, who other than bored people with money to burn can concern themselves with mildly amusing extravagances of this sort? (James Corcoran Gallery, 8223 Santa Monica Blvd., to Aug. 2.)