Art Review: "For Your Pleasure" at CB1 Gallery
Group exhibitions come in two general types: those that try to make a point about some issue and those that are the visual equivalent of throwing spaghetti against the kitchen wall to see what sticks. The first strive to add up to wholes greater than the sum of their parts. The second are all about finding a handful of standouts in a crowd.
At CB1Gallery, “For Your Pleasure” comes somewhere between the two types. The 10-artist show is more coherent than its title suggests. But it has too many loose ends—or aesthetic nonsequiturs—to sustain a single line of argumentation. Viewers are nudged in a general direction and then left alone to discover their favorites, which, more often than not, resonate with at least half of the other works in the show. It’s a psychologically charged experience filled with many surprises.
The works fall into three groups: clever cartoons, sharply focused photographs and discombobulated paintings.
The cartoons set the mood, suggesting playful irreverence and easy access while tapping into an undertow of discontent. Mira Schor’s block-headed stick figures seem to occupy frames from unfinished comic strips, perhaps abandoned because their maker lost interest or some disaster made progress impossible.
Larry Mantello makes collages out of temporary tattoos and constructs super-realistic sculptures that would not be out of place in a bakery’s front window. In both, the giggly giddiness is so loud that it rings hollow, hinting at oceans of sorrow beneath the surface.
Chuck Agro manages to wrestle some pathos out of his pedestrian caricatures of lonely folks. Chris Oatey’s gray enlargements of what appear to be newspaper photographs come off as even more dated in their nod to mechanically reproduced imagery.
The paintings by Martin Durazo, Tameka Norris, Hilde Overbergh and HK Zamani all look as if they have survived multiple catastrophes and are all the better for it.
Durazo’s spray-painted, duct-taped love seat and matching canvas covered with stenciled images of owls, snowflakes and skulls is gloriously forlorn, its slapdash demeanor and grungy nonchalance just the right mix of street savvy and abandon.
Norris’ two paintings from her Post Katrina series are ethereal, dreamy and lovely. They’re also nasty, devastating and profound. Painted sparely and swiftly on cheap bed sheets, the ghostly homes they depict seem to be disintegrating before your eyes, along with everything around them.
Overbergh’s small and medium-sized paintings pack loads of info into modest dimensions. Each plays with scale like nobody’s business, pulling the rug out from under your feet and making you wonder if you’re on the inside looking out or outside looking in.
Zamani’s meaty paintings come from the no-man’s-land between sleep and wakefulness, when consciousness is not fully functional and every little detail is more mysterious than usual. Cartoons form the backstory of his boiled-down compositions, but abstraction comes to the forefront in his idiosyncratic pictures that hover on the cusp of recognizability.
Amy Yoes’ abstract C-prints and Susan Silas’ digital pictures of a dead bird lack the verve that runs through the rest of the works. Misfits among misfits, they add to the show’s spunky sense of unfinished business.
CB1Gallery, 207 W. 5th St., (213) 806-7889, through Sept. 4. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. www.cb1gallery.com
Images: Top, Mira Schor, "Read, Think, Walk." Middle: Larry Mantello, "Plus Some." Bottom: HK Zamani, "Untitled." Credits for all three: Courtesy CB1Gallery