Joe Fay just loves the trick of pulling wet acrylic into spiky tendrils. He may have moved from nonobjective painting to figurative sculpture, but he has hung on to those decorative, feathery patterns. Other constants in Fay's recent art include cookie-cutter animals and a tone of urban anxiety, but the latest batch has a decidedly new look. Instead of working in polyurethane foam and a raw, bright palette, Fay now fashions big free-standing sculptures of painted wood and smaller ones of burnished aluminum. Some of the wood pieces are black--that's, right, solid black--while others bear a toned-down version of the familiar patterns.
Depicting cactuses, coyotes, crows and cowboys, Fay also has abandoned the city for Southwestern deserts, but his urban sensibility poses his subjects as symbols of wildness--both threatened and threatening. While birds seem to grow out of one cactus, giant crows attack another. Coyotes stand on their hind legs like human beings and howl exultantly or fall before a cowboy on horseback.
The show is spirited and fun to look at. As art, it works in a cartoonish way, but this new work is an odd hybrid that falls seriously short as sculpture. Made of flat, intersecting cut-outs, it tends to be strong on silhouettes, short on volumetric interest. Viewers walk around the pieces in search of the correct viewing position. Apparently Fay hasn't decided if he wants to make pop-up paintings or painted sculpture. (Richard Green Gallery, 830 N. La Brea Ave., to Feb. 22.)