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Review: Devin Troy Strother's comical works exude smart exuberance

October 03, 2013|By David Pagel
  • Devin Troy Strother at Richard Heller Gallery.
Devin Troy Strother at Richard Heller Gallery. (Alan Shaffer / From the artist,…)

In two solo shows over the last four years, Devin Troy Strother has shown himself to be a wickedly funny master of cut-and-paste collage as well as a sly spinner of side-splitting stories about such loaded subjects as blood, money and sex — otherwise known as race, class and gender.

At Richard Heller Gallery, the young L.A. artist bumps up the scale of his hilarious paper dolls while losing none of the goofy intelligence that has become his trademark.

Cartoons may not account for everything that exists, but they provide Strother with the perfect format for his potent art. Accessible, spunky and open to just about anything you bring to them, his comical cutouts play fast and loose with traditional distinctions between painting and sculpture all the better to get art and life, fantasy and reality, fact and fiction to intermingle freely.

CHEAT SHEET: Fall arts preview

Strictly speaking, Strother’s works on canvas, panel and paper are low-relief sculptures. In many, lions and tigers and panthers, alongside athletes and supermodels and spectators, play out preposterous dramas that reveal some deep (and sometimes disturbing) truths about the absurd world in which we live.

Likewise, Strother’s larger-than-life-size sculptures, made of laser-cut aluminum and automobile enamel, are two-dimensional — more like flat images than in-the-round objects.

The silhouetted bimbos all but disappear when you stand alongside them. Modeled on exotic odalisques from yesteryear, each of the impossibly proportioned babes has such a wide smile on her face that you know she’s in on the joke — and that part of it’s on you. 

There’s plenty of suffering and sadness, as well as madness and injustice, in Strother’s visually sophisticated pictures of people running through the jungle, going to the opera and watching basketball games. But that doesn’t rule out laughter, which gets the upper hand in his exuberant exhibition.

Richard Heller Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, (310) 453-9191, through Oct. 26. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.richardhellergallery.com  

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