Exhibit titles can be rather frustrating beasts for me. They tend to be oblique, esoteric things that rarely have any relevance to the art they’re intended to encapsulate. It may sound like a nitpicky, pet peevey gripe, but I’m prone to melodramatic bouts of anxiety over art as a general rule. However, when I find myself awake at 2:30 am still pondering the show title and the the art within, as I did with “The Noise In The Basement,” it’s almost always a good sign.
The latest group show at WWA Gallery features a number of works from eight different artists: James “Jimbot” Demski, Dan Goodsell, JoKa, David Lozeau, Juan “Frijol Boy” Muniz, Jeff T. Owens, JC Rivera, and Saratoga Sake. The connective tissue between some of these artists may be thin, but it’s stalwart. I think a line could be drawn from all of them to that bittersweet Chasing Amy world of misfit comic-con geeks, tattoo artists, and toy makers. You know, that world of coffee shops and record stores where there’s always a robust argument to be found about various pop culture entities and their intrinsic worth? I’m very fond of that world.
Sometimes I wish galleries would have a live web feed so you could listen to the conversations swirling around the art. This would be the ideal show to do that with. I’m fairly certain that at some point during the run of this show, somebody will attempt to make one of their friends feel bad for not knowing about Mr. Toast. What? YOU don’t know about Mr. Toast?! Well, let me tell you, Dan Goodsell is the creator of the web comic The World of Mr. Toast. It is a series of one-panel comics that are so sweet in their simplicity that they can feel bizarre in these cynical times. Goodsell’s album cover size ink & watercolor drawings are all charm, no malice. It’s a real treat to see the originals in this show, and understand how softly rendered they are.
James “Jimbot” Demski is well represented here with over twenty pieces that run the gamut from witty self-portraits, and robots in distress to sperm shaped Muppets and sun beasts. Juan “Frijol Boy” Muniz continues to place his signature Felipe bunny in tragicomic situations. David Lozeau imagines the dark side as a fairly anorexic place. JC Rivera has been thriving in the custom toy market for a while now, but here, flat on canvas, his bear seems trapped and all the more surly for it. I don’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest by suggesting that reknowned graf artist Saratoga Sake is taking a little jab at a certain pop surrealist whose built a very lucrative career painting big-eyed children and Abraham Lincolns. Suffice it to say that Sake’s versatility is astounding.
JoKa, as some of you may know, is an artist I adore. He paints uncompromising nightmarish scenes that often appear to be on fire. The flames seem to burn away layers that hint at the origin of his phantasms. For the uninitiated, JoKa applies the paint using toothpicks, not brushes, which may sound gimmicky, until you see the work. Precious few artists have been able to use pointillism to carve out a wholly unique vision. I would offer JoKa a seat right next to Chuck Close, at that table.
My favorite thing about group shows is having that “how did I not know about this guy?” moment, and “The Noise In The Basement” provided one. JTO, or Jeff T. Owens, seized my attention immediately. I would say Owens’ work has a direct lineage to the masterful art produced by EC Comics in the Forties. I’m a sucker for a contour line, and Owens has that sleek, sinuous line down pat. It’s a line reminiscent of Al Williamson and Neal Adams. It’s so perfect in it’s execution as to practically render the subject matter inconsequential. Which is not to say that vultures on skateboards or mutant vans are not compelling, but he had me at the line.
So, what is “The Noise in the Basement”? I can’t say for sure, but I had this thought at 2:30 in the morning. What if all the various remnants of your youth, your comic book collection, stuffed animals, surf magazines, concert posters, toys and the like were all packed away in the cellar for safekeeping. Now what if that childhood notion you had, about those things coming to life when you weren’t around, was dead-on accurate? There would be quite a racket. This show may very well be a representation of that cacophony. You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?“The Noise in the Basement” runs through Nov. 3, 2012 WWA Gallery
9517 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232 Gallery Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday, 11-5pm or by appointment
Text and photos by Keith Ross Dugas