Poor Matthew Price. He's a very interesting young artist, and his work is improving all the time. Some months back, we gave his show at the Office a rave in these pages, and under normal circumstances, we'd be more than happy to devote a full column to hyping "Sweet Unrest," his current show at the Grand Central Art Center.
But we must confess that this time, through no fault of his own, Price failed to really grab our attention. You see, his latest show is running simultaneously with another show, "Roll for a Cure" (both close this Sunday), which is made up almost entirely of female titties. Titties to the left of you, titties to the right, big ones, small ones, the floppy and the firm, all painted up in crazy colors, with little faces on the nipples and stuff. More than 20 artists contributed to "Roll for a Cure," and it's a strange and wondrous thing—a Russ Myer-esque fever dream, a veritable boobsapalooza.
And then there's poor Price, trying to get noticed in the middle of all that. Sorry, buddy, but even art critics are not immune to certain mammalian imperatives.
"Roll for a Cure" features plaster casts of the breasts of members of the OC Rollergirls roller-derby team, and these casts have been painstakingly decorated by such artists as Niccole Ugay and Sean Bristol. Now, when you're presented with a show like this, there's a regrettable temptation to just get silly—to go crazy with the titty puns and focus on the bosoms rather than the busts (that is, to sniggeringly treat these pieces like sex objects, rather than to seriously appraise them as art objects). But this is a show with brains, as well as great knockers.
Setting aside the loveliness of the boobs as boobs, there are some really striking visuals here. Thomas Griego takes the breasts of roller queen Jacqueline Hyde and turns them into a kind of storybook wonderland—a fairy village with lush trees and little drawer things that pull out of the nipples. Hyde gave him some sweet material to work with, but Griego has certainly made the most of it, lavishing his imagination across the boobs, along the ribs, and even on the inside of the cast, where he's got some playing cards stashed away. Ladies, something tells us Griego is a fellow who will treat you right—he takes the whole "your body is a wonderland" thing very seriously.
Some of the art here is intentionally kitschy, like the kooky Elvis makeover that Ivanna S. Pankin gives to the swingin' neckbreakers of Disco Dervish. But many of these pieces are lovely by any measure, like the flaming mosaic design that Kristin Matthews applies to the spectacular endowments of Brik Wall. (Can we lift our moratorium on bad titty puns long enough to make a crack about how this is our idea of a National Endowment for the Arts? No?) Chela and Joseph Bañuelos make a really nice "Milagros Medley" on the petite frame of Baby Sister; it sort of looks like what would happen if Frida Kahlo had gone into business designing high-class bustiers.
The show benefits the Breast Cancer Angels and the Keep-a-Breast Foundation (see, even the charity organizations can't resist the titty puns), so in addition to the can't-miss proposition of ogling boobs at the same time you experience some fine art, if you buy one of these pieces, you might actually help save a life. And while you're in a charitable mood, go over and give Price's stuff some merciful oohs and ahhs. Once again, he takes us into a Tim Burton-like world of Goth cutie-pies, featuring a lot of girls with big, round heads and their oversized, staring eyes full of sinister secrets. Price's girls are consorting with creepy cats, little birds and other fuzzy, feathered things. And there are gas masks. It's arguably the stuff of Goth cliché, but it's also stylish and fun in its own glum, Hot Topic way. Price deserves your attention.
Yeah, we're still thinking about the boobs, too.
"Sweet Unrest" and "Roll for a Cure" at the Grand Central Art Center's Rental & Sales Gallery, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 567-7233; www.grandcentralartcenter.com. Call for hours. Through Sunday.