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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

July 17, 1987|WILLIAM WILSON

Two Chicago artists inaugurate a new space for the Roy Boyd Gallery, which has moved beachward from La Brea Avenue. Whatever else, the artists prove that Chicago art is not all Hairy Who comic strip violence. These chaps are mournful.

Robert McCauley ruminates sadly on wildlife. His introductory piece is an obelisk of antlers, petrified fish and turtle shells with a knife stuck rather inconspicuously among them. You get the feeling that the pieces express opposition to hunting or are more generally about human unwillingness to live in harmony with nature. But isn't there a legitimate argument that hunting is in harmony with nature? There is something odd and a little irritating about the sensibility at work here. A large piece called "Winter Kill" consists of a fiberglass deer, an enshrined painting of a forest with an appended photograph of a line of strung-up game. Below is a life-size shovel that appears to be shrouded in sheet lead. The piece brings to mind both Ed Kienholz and Jasper Johns. The trouble is McCauley is neither as satirical as the one nor as oblique as the other so we are left wondering what the devil he is saying.

A piece that juxtaposes a human head in a dunce cap against a picture of a ram suggests a subtext of sexual impotence. Another head that sprouts violins and trumpets along with antlers almost equates hunting with art but neither piece comes clean. This art is like a guy who keeps moaning about how awful it all is but won't tell you what's wrong.

Gordon Powell presents seven small wall reliefs. All look like split tree branches that remind one of human lower torsos and thighs. All are hollow shells made of wooden strips painted a mottled black and white. The similarity of the works suggests obsessive depression. Add their emptiness and suggestion of castration and you get the idea this is not art you are liable to whistle on the way to the car. (Roy Boyd Gallery, 1547 10th St., to Aug. 30.).

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