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Review: Kelly McLane at Angles Gallery

June 5, 2009 | 11:00 am

Kelly Disasters pile up like train wrecks in Kelly McLane’s powerfully dark, profoundly realistic exhibition at Angles Gallery. Consisting of six generally big paintings, five generally small drawings and one knockout sculpture, the artist’s fantastically grim exhibition depicts the apocalypse as if it were yesterday’s news.

Titled “... And Swine Flew Too!” McLane’s 10th solo show in Los Angeles since 1996 turns a bit of folk wisdom on its ear to suggest that the impossible has happened; it’s just not what we expected. Pigs do not literally fly in her hallucinatory pictures of stampeding buffalo, headless horsemen, crashing airplanes and spinning Ferris wheels. But if they did, they would not be out of place.

McLane is a master draftsperson. Her drawings are always up close and personal. This forces viewers to be intimate with people and ideas that are unsavory at best.

In “Zero Gravity Madonna Lab,” plump pink babies grow like hothouse tomatoes as older kids, in hermetically sealed bubbles, evoke science experiments gone wrong. In “Flaming Arrow,” a sunny sky rains cherubic cowgirls as a monstrous maw opens in the desert floor to devour everything around it.

Her paintings add depth and color to such point-blank encounters, making the grand sweep of history come alive. If her oils and acrylics on canvas were novels, they would have a lot in common with works by Mark Twain, Wallace Stegner and Thomas Pynchon.

McLane’s 8-foot-tall sculpture gives queasy 3-D form to the dramas that unfold in her paintings. In it, mutant sumo wrestlers made of porcelain suffer, die and turn to stone, but not before big pink candy crystals burst from some of their stomachs.

McLane’s nightmarish yet clear-eyed works survey a world in which horrific absurdity and poetic justice collide. The sins of the past revisit the present in ways that make yesterday’s excesses look like a walk in the park. Moments of sweet innocence are few and far between, and all the more important for their rarity.

-- David Pagel

Angles Gallery, 2230 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-5019, through July 18. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Above: "I Am Not a Ricist," porcelain, wood, foam, paint, flocking, horse mane, rice, rock salt, rock candy. Credit: Brian Forrest / Angles Gallery