Art review: Adam Janes at Martha Otero
At first, Adam Janes’ collages look like ungainly abstractions: mishmashes of magazine clippings, doodles and lumpy wax protuberances. Then you start to notice the preponderance of body parts, both collaged and drawn — legs, arms and shapes that suggest buttocks or intestines. These messes almost coalesce into figures, but perhaps only if you think of bodies not as unitary organisms, but as collections of stuff, and random stuff at that.
On view along with several wax sculptures at Martha Otero, the pieces resemble in some ways the work of fellow Angeleno Aaron Curry, who has more explicitly addressed the fragmentation of the body in modern art. But Janes’ drawings feel less calculated, and more diffuse. They are like little machines where things are ingested, digested and ultimately extruded, but without a clear outcome. Janes appears to be a skilled draftsman — his doodles have the bounce and confidence of comic book illustration — and these works seemed designed to resist that ease, to roughen it up. However, their jumbled parts never really add up to anything like insight or, failing that, the queasiness of a punch in the gut.
The wax sculptures — which are really large candles — are more effective, in part because they are one step closer to their source material: kitsch. Towers of assorted chunks and cast pieces of multi-colored wax, they mash up decorative motifs, from a Chinoiserie vase to a head of Homer (of ancient Greece, not “The Simpsons”). Both phallic and figurative, they make the bodily references in the works on paper more literal, turning pastiche into awkwardly compelling versions of Frankenstein’s monster. Plus, it’s nice to envision their disjointed, off-kilter shapes melting down into a gooey morass on the gallery floor.
-- Sharon Mizota
Martha Otero, 820 N. Fairfax Ave., (323) 951-1068, through July 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.marthaotero.com
Photo: "Objects in Play," 2011, Installation View. Credit: From the artist and Martha Otero Gallery. Photography: Fredrik Nilsen Studio.