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Art review: Victoria Reynolds at Richard Heller Gallery

February 17, 2011 |  7:00 pm

Victoria Vegetable matter has recently joined raw meat in Victoria Reynolds' repertoire of still life subjects, but the addition of flora to fauna has not lessened the carnal hedonism at work in her oil paintings. If anything, Reynolds' foray into fruits, vegetables and flowers has upped the ante.

Her third solo exhibition at Richard Heller Gallery includes 15 oils and three works on paper (pencil, charcoal and watercolor), most made since last year. The luxurious depictions of meat and animal innards contain almost Surrealist allusions to portraiture. Bits of raw flesh do double duty with faces and body parts.

In one, an intricate net of off-white reindeer tissue suspended parallel to the picture plane even suggests the miraculous apparition that appeared on Veronica's veil, after the mythical saint wiped sweat from the face of a brutalized Jesus as he made his way to Calvary. No actual face is recorded in Reynolds' painting, but human features nonetheless seem to dart in and out of sight.

Reynolds' fleshy, flashy pictures play with a still life's inherent metaphors of "dead nature." Sometimes she adds a florid baroque picture frame to a painting of sirloin or raw brisket. The frame's rhyming shapes of carved foliage, often highlighted with rubbed color, and painted marbled meat might have inspired her recent addition of flora as pictorial subject matter.

Cherries, strawberry preserves, edible hibiscus flowers and more are shown in extreme closeup, swimming in an ooze of cream and syrup. Reynolds isn't choosing staples or necessities to paint -- not when lusciousness can be had. Fertility and mortality are her focus, and a garden is always preferable when it overflows with earthly delights.

-- Christopher Knight

Richard Heller Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-9191, through March 19. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Photo: Victoria Reynolds, "Cream Cascade," 2010, oil on panel; Credit: Richard Heller Gallery