Creepy Inner Light

Its still Halloween at two local art galleries

Every so often—"almost once a week" on the Mayan calendar—some paintings come along that look like the paintings you've already seen. And somewhat less often, those paintings are done well enough, with real depth, interesting subjects, and hazily glazed-on color from the nicotine side of the color wheel, that you forgive them their trespasses against you. Partly because the night before Thanksgiving is supposed to be the best bar night of the year; but also because they're really nice to look at, even if they don't make you think the kinds of deep new thoughts you think they should.

You've seen this side of Natasha Buruato's work before, somewhere—perhaps in the gallery in your head. Her show "Vintage Beauties I Once Knew," of mostly tiny acrylics at the ARTery—its first exhibition since expanding the gallery from one shipping container at the Lab to three—remembers the dinner parties of her youth (she's reportedly in her 20s) with a series of paintings of a brunette in a vintage-y red cocktail dress. She has the Veronica Lake hair-over-one-eye, and she poses with a skull mask on sticks. Mostly—Nothing Personal, It's Survival; Memorable Evening—she's sitting on an empty dining room table; it narrows back toward her like an empty desert road, from a glass of amber booze in the foreground. Around the edges, second-hand smoke makes shapes. Only her pose and the glass change from piece to piece.

It's very Day of the Dead, which was last month, but more finely done; Buruato's calaveras look filigreed, with lacy black detail, not unlike those sugar skulls you find for sale in Mexico around the holiday. And it's rather a one-note show, until you reach La Familia en la cocina, a large-scale, magic-realist take on what must have been Buruato's family dinners as a child—if she were raised by a family of skeletons. La Familia is the standout of the show: its skeletons aren't eating. They're slow-dancing—the men in white shirts and black pants leading the women, who all wear that same red dress. One woman dandles a little skeleton baby, and under the table is a little skeleton dog. And that dog? Makes you think of The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's a good movie, but maybe you've seen it.

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Instead, go check out Jason Maloney's three little pieces at the J. Flynn Gallery down the street before the show "Darkness" closes. He paints black like you've never seen it: the old-fashioned way, out of five or six other colors layered on top of each other until—black, everybody! What can we say about Maloney (former addict/from LaVerne/works for Disneyland) that hasn't already been said by Juxtapoz—but he soaked up his Orange County real good in just a few years. His Paul Frank Is Not Your Friend renders Julius the Monkey all scary and robotic, in a sea of wires—each aglow with a creepy inner light. It's small—and priced north of $1,000—but nice. Then there's Butt Hurt,a sad little pull-toy duck of a painting, with his booty all bandaged. Poor duckie.With fangs and an evil little sneer. Yikes!

"At this point in time," says Jack Flynn, "What is original?"

Remember Mark Ryden?

"VINTAGE BEAUTIES I ONCE KNEW" BY NATASHA BURUATO AT THE ARTERY, THE LAB, 2930 BRISTOL ST., COSTA MESA, (714) 966-6660. CALL FOR HOURS. THROUGH DEC. 10. FREE; "DARKNESS" AT J. FLYNN GALLERY, 2950A RANDOLPH AVE., COSTA MESA, (714) 708-3504; WWW.JFLYNNGALLERY.COM. OPEN TUES.-SAT., 11 A.M.-6 P.M. THROUGH DEC. 2. FREE.

 
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