"I saw one or two pieces, but it was so brilliant I had to leave," a friend told me after Sandow Birk's Grand Central opening Saturday night. I knew exactly what he meant.
Are you an artist, or a creative person of any stripe? Would you like to feel bad about yourself and whatever piddling work you've managed to slap together till now? Then by all means, head over to Cal State Fullerton—both its Main Gallery and its Santa Ana Artists Village satellite, Grand Central—and see the kind of exhibit you'd put together if you didn't have to keep body and soul by teaching or slinging joe and could do nothing but paint and draw in between your trips (paid for by awed patrons who're hoping you'll rub off) to Paris and Morocco.
Oh, and if you were a freaking genius.
The Grand Central show comprises etchings from his book (well, one of several, actually) that translated Dante's Inferno into surf-speak. It was lauded at the time of its original release, but didn't show nearly the creativity that had gone into Birk's previous masterpiece series, "The Great War of the Californias." Now, though, it's buttressed with the trailer for a movie he's made—along with puppeteer Paul Zaloom, plus the voice of James Cromwell (the farmer from Babe) as Virgil—and ridiculously bad-ass sets created with Birk's girlfriend, Elyse Pignolet. There's a Minotaur schwarma stand; there's a porn palace, all fashioned from paper; there's one circle of hell that takes place entirely in airport security. It's like Team America: World Police, but with paper dolls instead of marionettes. And with Dante's Beatrice instead of Saddam Hussein.
Go, gnash your teeth and tear your hair. You'll be mad it wasn't you all day.
Sandow Birk's Divine Comedy at Cal State Fullerton, Main Gallery, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 278-3262. Open Mon.-Thurs., noon-4 p.m.; Sat., noon-2 p.m. Through March 9; also on display at Grand Central Art Center, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 567-7233. Open Tues.-Thurs. & Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Through March 20.