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Art review: Glimpses of the past re-imagined for today

October 10, 2012|By Christopher Knight
  • J.P. Munro's "Dionysus in India."
J.P. Munro's "Dionysus in India." (International Art Objects…)

Nine diverting new paintings on linen or panel by J.P. Munro conjure a kind of extravagant Neo-Post-Impressionism, re-imagined for another era.

The exoticism of Gauguin, the visually fracturing dots of Seurat, the crystalline delirium of Van Gogh, the Arcadian fantasies of Cézanne and the primitive wonderment of Henri Rousseau collapse into infinitely receding pictures within pictures. His paintings have the roseate glow of burled wood antiques.

At International Art Objects Galleries, Munro gives us Dionysus, son of Zeus, riding on a tiger's back into a landscape jam-packed with competing gods and goddesses — Shiva, the Buddha, voluptuous nudes — in a scene as fantastic as James Ensor's hallucinatory image of the risen Christ entering Brussels during a raucous Mardi Gras parade.

Nearby, another painting shows a prim woman playing the piano for a throng of sumptuous nudes assembled before a big Baroque landscape, which could as easily be a view out a picture window toward the western end of the Sunset Strip. Other paintings take in a woozy view of Lake Hollywood from atop Mt. Lee or into a forbidding canyon filled with dense, tinder-dry brush.

A marvelously ordered view into Munro's studio is studded with a half a dozen paintings in progress. The largest is a developing scene of the Battle of Issus, the 16th century subject of Albrecht Altdorfer's most famous painting, in which a young Alexander the Great defeated Persia's King Darius in his youthful effort at global conquest. Like Altdorfer, who relocated the ancient fight from Turkey to Renaissance Germany and portrayed it as an unfathomable swirl of glorious destruction, Munro moves the epic struggle to his own tumultuous time and place.

A final picture telescopes Munro's broken brushwork. Titled “I Slept in an Arcade,” the pure abstraction leaps all the way across today's digital divide in a small panel composed solely of unruly, dancing color-dots. Neo-Post or not, there’s no going back.

International Art Objects Galleries, 6086 Comey Ave., Culver City, (323) 965-2264, through Oct. 20. Closed Sun. and Mon.

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