Catalyst 18's "Wonder-Room" may look like a series of elementary school projects gone awry and desperately resuscitated (more macaroni)—but that's okay: they say it's post-modern, a net thrown around here to somehow wrangle a roomful of Pollack-y take-offs, space-aged prisms, eroding tea parties, and Technicolor acid trips into submission. Borderline miraculous for Irvine. "Wonder-Room" tries simultaneously to comment on what's left of the counterculture—and on Orange County—with a series of artworks inspired by everything from cakes to? Urban planning. In Irvine, urban planning is the counterculture.
For artist Grant Vetter, the muse is pastries. Vetter somehow created a confectionary effect—globs of paint—by actually pushing acrylic colors through the back of a canvas until enough of it collected on the front. He also wove friendship bracelet floss through his canvases, producing disheveled seamstress-like tangles on the surface and a chaotic three-dimensional effect—but that's just jargon. It looks like a picture of Rainbow Land, and you halfway expect to see a unicorn wading through a chocolate river.
Elsewhere is not so nice: Becca Mann's Chinese House of the Dead is a temple-like house painted with the bruised fleshy tones of a decaying body that seems to be vanishing before the viewer. It's beautiful and decomposing at the same time, and oddly pretty with ugly colors.
The pretty-ugly continues with Amanda Price's Clusterphobia series, an ooze of pus seeping slowly out of the corners of the wall and ceiling moldings. Clusters of . . . stuff, made from expandable building insulation creep between the artworks and parasitic clusters (made of seed beads) in turn, grow on that. It's like a student horror film; it's gross, and it's all fake.
Elana Hill returns us, shaken, to reality with her Untitled series of bacteria and amoeba-like shapes concentrically outlined so many times they make your retina vibrate, creating some trippy "Magic Eye" book effects. They look like diagrams in a biology textbook, but Hill's actually inspired by bizarre urban planning—giving her, perhaps, something in common with Donald Bren. Ewww! Elsewhere, she delivers line drawings of pale nude girls wearing just their underwear—and respirators. She says: "I wanted to portray our incoherent need for protection and how ridiculous it can get." Done—and done.