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IS NOTHING SACRED TO THIS GUY? : This William Anthony, Is He Serious or What?

June 25, 1992|CATHY CURTIS | Cathy Curtis covers art for The Times Orange County Edition.

"Whassamatta, can't the guy draw right? These look like cartoons by some dumb 10-year-old! My kid could . . . Who? This William Anthony guy, whose drawings and paintings are at this new place in Laguna Beach, Stuart Katz's Loft. Somebody said this guy studied art at Yale in the '50s with Joseph Albers. Aw, come on. That guy was famous for making pictures of squares.

"Yeah, yeah, Anthony's stuff has been slobbered over by the hoity-toity New York art press. They're all in it together. This guy's hung up with famous art, all right, but he makes it look so stoopit. He takes important stuff and makes it look as though it was dreamed up by a snotty-nosed kid.

"Like when he paints the 'Three Graces' as these bulbous chicks with skinny legs posing for some numskull in a pink beret whose canvas is as big as he is. Just to show he knows that's how they make art in Gay Paree, he goes and paints the Eiffel Tower in the window. He's gotta be pulling somebody's leg, am I right?

"Or look at that drawing called 'Renoirscape.' You know those big fat bathers Renoir did? Well, Anthony turns them into these silly pink galumphs splashing their toes and fingers and flipping water from their hair. One of 'em wears a little see-through rag that looks like a picnic cloth.

"It reminded me of that white thing--like a dishcloth, my wife said--that the 'Blue Boy' wears over his arm in Anthony's version of that big, famous painting by what's-his-name. I mean, nothing's sacred to this guy. He does a drawing of 'Miss October,' and it's a girl with a body like a sandbag wearing blue underwear and talking on the phone next to a wall calendar. Ya know, it's almost like he heard of Playboy but never actually thumbed through a copy. I dunno, maybe that's the point.

"Then there's this grubby piece a paper--it's a drawing called 'Matsumoto Gets His' with zillions of little planes in the sky, zapping other little planes with little dash lines that show the bomb trajectories. And the ocean is swarming with warships exploding all over the place, with tiny people jumping overboard. My uncle Ernie used to draw stuff like that when he was a kid during World War II.

"Some of the guy's stuff is practically obscene, anyhow. Did you see the one called 'Sleep,' with the two naked women in the bed? I heard a woman say it's a takeoff on a painting by someone named Courbet from the 1800s. Probably a pal of that other French painter who got to eat lunch with those naked ladies on the grass. Remember him?

"But the weird thing is, when Anthony does this stuff, he drains out all the art part and leaves just, you know, these gnarly little bodies. It's like that's all there is, just poor, dumb flesh. Sorta like a kid's idea of sex, just body parts that are supposed ta fit together somehow, but you dunno just how. Plus, all Anthony's bodies are attached together weird, like people who got real messed up in a freeway wreck, and the surgeon screwed up.

"Then there's this painting called 'Homage to Hands.' Each pair of hands is labeled. There's 'praying hands' and 'angry fists' and 'saluting hand' (with an eye underneath, for cryin' out loud) and 'hand of loser in knife fight,' with the knife sorta falling out of the fingers.

"Anthony can't draw hands worth a damn. The fingers look like sausages or clubs or something. You think this picture is gonna be like a bunch of sketches by some famous artist trying out his hand technique. You know, those little pieces a paper they sell for a quarter-million dollars nowadays?

"But those guys didn't do their doodles in paint. So maybe it's more like, say, a cartoonist working out his style. Now a cartoonist, he might need to show saluting and fighting and stuff. Seems like this Anthony guy keeps mixing up the big, fancy kind of art you see behind velvet ropes in museums with the kinda drawings guys carve into bathroom stalls. I dunno, maybe that's the point."

What: "William Anthony: Paintings and Drawings 1967-1991."

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays only (or by appointment). Through Aug. 1.

Where: Stuart Katz's Loft, 2091 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

Whereabouts: San Diego (I-405) Freeway to Route 133 (Laguna Canyon Road). Go south, and look sharp on your left once you pass the Art Institute of Southern California on your right. Just past Wyland Studios (purple awning) is the 2075-2095 industrial complex. The gallery is on the second floor, above Canyon Box and Packaging, in the rear.

Wherewithal: Admission is free.

Where to call: (714) 497-1098.

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