Larry Gagosian kicks off the fall season with yet another exhibition of fake child art from New York. One Jean-Michel Basquiat seems like more than enough, but apparently there are dozens of ambitious rookies slaving away in the dark recesses of Gotham who don't feel that way. Borrowing liberally from the schoolyard style that Basquiat pioneered, most of them fail to add anything of their own to the recipe--but, hey, no sweat. There's no place like the art world for unloading a truckload of Dr. Charlatan's Magical Cure-All Tonic.
This week's tonic is brought to you by Donald Baechler who works in a faux naif style that's transparent, glib and supremely unoriginal. Baechler double-tracks and declares that he's not a case of arrested development but is wickedly sophisticated by interspersing his intentionally clumsy scribblings of little girls, boys, clowns and black natives with flat, colored squares of varying size. (See, it's the unusual child indeed who combines free-associative "abstract" drawing with earnest attempts to render Grandma's house.
Conforming to the fake child art formula, Baechler's pictures combine messy, viscous surfaces, crude, Crayola colors and perspective and scale that's out of whack. They are, to put it mildly, not particularly attractive paintings but avant-garde propagandists ought to love them. Utterly devoid of content, they leave plenty of room for ambitious critics to erect theoretical cathedrals. (Larry Gagosian, 510 N. Robertson Blvd., to Oct. 25.)