Kraten's work is charming. Who doesn't love those sleek-haired punkstresses? What punk rock girl wasn't convinced this was her mirror image—and not the chubby girl from Ghost World who was probably a whole lot closer? Kraten's girls are faceless anime silhouettes; they're sometimes given robotic arms and other improvements, like Jaime Sommers (and Max the Dog). They've got spiky, punky Gypsy Den hair; they wear stripes with fishnets and look smashing every time; their clothes don't fit poorly, like thrift-shop clothes usually do, but adhere snugly and perfectly to their toit-loik-a-toiger model bodies. Sometimes, Kraten gives them pieces of face: they might get a pair of lips, for instance, that invariably are so full and pouty and perfect—like Liv Tyler's—they perforce droop at the corners, weighted down by all that natural lip-fat.
Kraten's girls are beautiful.
And then there are his boys. Emo boys. Slacker boys. Bland, blank boys with about as much personality as the lackluster Ken has next to vivacious, go-getter Barbie. Kraten's boys are beside the point, mere foils for the girls, shadows to show up their light. Aaron Kraten is not motivated by men. He's motivated by expensive and lovely punk-rock strange.
"Beefcake/Cheesecake II," Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, 117 N. Sycamore St., Santa Ana, (714) 667-1517. Through Sept. 28. Aaron Kraten, Seven Degrees, 891 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, (949) 376-1555. Open daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Through Sept. 30.