Bela Lugosis Dead
It's always fun to play "Spot the Influences" (or, watching the news after Sept. 11, a little game I liked to call "Did They Confirm That?"), but with Scott Ferry's show "Red Crush" at the Pece-Arieas Gallery in the Santora Arts Complex, it's more fun than ever! That's because Californian artists' influences these days usually lean toward either Rauschenberg or Rembrandt, but with Ferry, it's all Magick all the time. Before I was out of the teeny space, I'd racked up the dark ethoses of Tomata du Plenty and Mary Woronov, the snip-and-paste mail art of Skot Armstrong and Genesis P-Orridge, the puckered flesh of Naida Osline's "Skin" series and Tyler Stallings' bloody liposuctioned fat, the deviltry of Bela Lugosi and Aleister Crowley, Kenny Scharf's decorative discs as shiny as Jell-O and his late '70s new wave vibe, and the witchiness of Stevie Nicks and Anita Pallenberg. Anita Pallenberg alone is worth, like, fifteen hundred points.
Outside of the influences, though, there's not a huge amount going on. Ferry uses digital technology to make what looks exactly like late-'70s collages. In one series, depthless black-and-white photos are superimposed on flat white backgrounds and decorated with shiny discs of red like platelets or Jell-O shooters. Women's necks are scarred with graffiti-ish brands in a slick shade of gray, and skulls and bones dot the pages. Often, they have three eyes fringed with spidery lashes, and sometimes, they have fangs. In another, more compelling series, grainy and dimpled balls in vivid fleshy oranges could be cervixes or bulging, infected ear drums. In the backroom, two large-scale prints get fancy, leaving behind the blown-out black-and-white Xerox art. They have digital celestial backgrounds, sexy witches in sexy witch hats, and pixilated blue fairies nude but for their cute wedgies.
The retro feel of the subject matter—Magick is so 1982—jells beautifully with the lo-fi vibe of the finished projects. It works well as a window to '70s and early-'80s underground hipness/psychosis coupled with lots and lots of cocaine. Its only updating (aside from the two digitally manipulated fairy-and-witch scenes, which are very '90s in their ethereal digital backgrounds) is its tech: PhotoShop or the like instead of an all-night Fotomat and a convenience-store copy machine. I'm not sure that's enough, but it's enjoyable, and we're spared at least the Rauschenberg. And that's more than a little to be thankful for.
Scott Ferry's "Red Crush" at Pece-Arieas Gallery, 207 N. Broadway, Ste. K, Santa Ana, (949) 364-6116. Open by appointment. Through June 30.
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