First things first, if you’re the type of gallery-goer who likes to engage in polemics regarding Reagan’s influence on the Neo-Expressionists, all the while sipping a ten dollar glass of chardonnay, well Hyaena Gallery probably isn’t the place for you. However, if you’ve ever stayed up late drinking PBR, drawing monsters and zombies while “Reign In Blood” blared through the speakers, then you should get in here right away.
Hyaena isn’t a gallery in the typical sense of the word. Yes the walls are crowded with often high quality art, but the tiny space is also packed with t-shirts, art books, an art vending machine, and various tchotchkes. Bill Shafer is the man behind this madness and it’s worth noting that his business card lists four art genres that Hyaena traffics in, lowbrow, underground, outsider and dark art. It’s the latter category that tops the list, and rightly so. Hyaena’s not for the faint of heart. It’s for anyone who has a childlike adoration of horror movies. It’s for those who wish it was Halloween every day.
Hyaena’s current group exhibit, “Rock Is Dead,” exalts lost rock stars. Given Hyaena’s bent for blood and gore you might assume the show would be heavy on black metal, but it’s not. It’s a surprisingly sweet show that pays homage to a wide swath of artists we’ve lost over the decades. Sure there’s a Gidget Gein self-portrait, and large oil of Peter Steele by Sara Ray that actually has his casket scrapings embedded in the paint, but there’s also a deft Cam Rackam graphite drawing of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, while Jose Castillo renders Amy Winehouse largely with a date stamp, set to the day she was born. A cold cast copper sculpture of Adam Yauch by James Bonner is an absolute stunner. The Creep, who co-curated the show with Shafer, has a couple of softly painted salutes to Joey Ramone, where the acrylic paint has been thinned so much that it practically weeps on the canvas.
The thing I admire most about this place is its utter lack of pretention. There’s an evident passion for art, but a great deal of humor is found here as well. You might wonder why the still alive members of Kiss are represented in the show, until you see the title of the piece by Jeff Rebner, “They Aught To Be Dead.” While horror art isn’t something I’m typically drawn to, there’s an attitude here that I find refreshing. It’s almost as if the shock is serving as a litmus test for those who enter. If you can stomach the images of maggots and rotting flesh, there are many charms to be found within. If you find that you can’t get out of there fast enough, then the inherent wit of Bonner’s “Zombi Elvis: King Of The Dead” would be lost on you anyway.
“Rock Is Dead” runs through Sept. 30, 2012.Rock Is Dead Hyaena Gallery 1928 W. Olive Ave. Burbank, CA 91506 Tel: 1-818-972-2448 Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 7pm Sunday, Noon – 5pm Mon, Closed or by appointment