At Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Todd Gray's huge black-and-white photographs of greatly enlarged toys possess many of the qualities that usually give contemporary art its unsettling edginess. Yet the young artist's varnish-coated silver-prints, secured to the wall with big bolts and weighty slabs of steel, lack a sense of urgency.
In terms of materials, these indistinct pictures of silhouetted cartoon characters play it safe. Combining the detached, mechanical quality of easily reproduced photographs with a sensuous layer of hand-painted varnish, Gray's pieces go through the motions of confusing traditional distinctions between mediums.
Taking this tried-and-true maneuver one step further, they make a nod toward Minimalist sculpture by being affixed to the wall with a surplus of industrial-strength hardware.
In terms of subject matter, Gray's unwieldy "photo-objects" raise trendy, up-to-the-minute questions about the relationship between art and entertainment, but they fail to contribute anything new to the discussion.
Caught between the desire to criticize consumerist fantasies and the knowledge that successful art necessarily seduces viewers, these untitled works cancel themselves out by trying to have it both ways.
In the end, Gray's elaborate yet pat photographs look too much like the works of other artists. If David Levinthal's ambiguous Polaroids of toys were combined with Gary Simmons' scathing chalkboard drawings and Laurie Simmons' playful pictures of anthropomorphic appliances, there would be very little left for Gray's studious exercises to add.
* Shoshana Wayne Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, (310) 453-7535, through Jan. 25. Closed Sundays and Mondays.