A music-inspired show in Santa Ana's Artists Village, "Off the Record" is curator Amy Kaplan's second exhibition in the tiny, gray F+ Gallery, a condo garage—complete with roll-up door—doing double-duty as an art space. Modest by anyone's standards, there is still plenty of excellent work, cleanly displayed and priced with your pocketbook in mind. While still in the beginning stages, there's definitely the beginnings of something wonderful here, especially if you're intrigued by DIY galleries.
Thoughtfully grouping the pieces together so that similar themes play off one another, Kaplan has an eye for an arresting image, and her curatorial skill makes up for any deficits in display, marketing or publicity. There are a few: The information supplied on each piece is scant—just the title, artist and price inked on a few pieces of black tape, absent year or materials description—so apologies ahead of time for any wild guesses I make on the medium that falls wildly off-target.
The first grouping starts with the personal, individual way music elevates or devastates us. It's Glenn Arthur territory with Monica Munster's Handle. Her headphone-wearing steampunk heroine fills the frame—brimming with strength, beauty and clear-eyed attention, clad in spikes and leather straps, with ample cleavage—while the cityscape/soundscape explodes around her head as though an atomic halo. The nude, armless store mannequin in Michael McGregor's Sold Out also wears headphones, but there's no strength on display here. A defeatist cross between the vapidity of a Paris Hilton and the determined crazy of Britney Spears, the empress here definitely has no clothes.
"Off the Record" at F+ Gallery. Open Sat., 7-10 p.m.; or by appointment (email email@example.com). Through Aug. 25. Free.
Man Ray's photo Le violon d'Ingres is the inspiration for Anna Brittell's inelegant painting Solo In Grey, copying the f-holes of a string instrument to the female subject's lower back, but here resembling deep wounds, the figure's arms reaching out to touch them. The woman performing at the center of Rob Hill's sumptuous Cellist is most certainly not playing something upbeat if the chiarascuro is an indicator of mood, but she's also not quiet in her solitude, breaking the imposed silence with her instrument.
The idea of creating art pieces based on song lyrics could be a whole exhibition by itself, but most of the art that results here is either too literal (Tyler Nealeigh's well-executed illustrations from Thriller and the Dead Kennedys, or Dan Almanzar's white-clad Freddie Mercury given the Animaniacs treatment), too derivative (I feel as though I've seen variations of Chris DeArmas' Suicidal Tendencies-capped snake with a human skull in tattoo art; its ornate, funereal black picture frame is far more interesting), or not very compelling (Pam Peacock's two illustrations suggested by lyrics from Queens of the Stone Age and the Kinks would be better served as children's-book covers than on the walls of a gallery).
The fleeting quality of fame and the never-ending marketing that leads people to look for the next big thing comes to mind when gazing at Kurt Brizzolara's eye-catching canvas This is the stuff that killed Bob Dylan. Dylan's not dead is he? The picture works on several levels: as a variation on a quote from the cult alien comedy Paul; as hip Warhol-ish portrait of the folk singer in his youth; as a critique of the way expectations limit creative growth; and, finally, as a back-handed commentary about the work itself, gently reminding us of all of those crappy, disposable, black-and-white portraits of Prince or Kurt Cobain available at cheesy mall kiosks. Sam Carter self-consciously rolls around in the muck of Beatlemania with his painting Get Back, paying homage to (or looting, depending on how you look at it) the Let It Be roof session, Yellow Submarine, A Hard Day's Night, the notorious Yesterday and Today baby-butcher cover, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, among others. Fun for fans, but I can't imagine anyone actually wanting the painting on a wall.
The award for most unusual goes to Julie PoisonIv's Record of the Month Club, an ungainly mixed-media sculpture of spray-painted punk, surf and easy-listening LPs and 45s screwed into artfully arranged pieces of wood, string linking them together as though they were an aural Ojo de Dios. It's original but not very pretty . . . but then, neither is rock & roll.
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I want to have F+ Gallery owner Micah Kersh's delightful Poor Cassey, a small painting of a cassette shedding a tear from its take-up reel, a plaintive "listen to me . . ." over its head, as a comic speech balloon. Watch out, Hello Kitty, if the artist ever decides to license character T-shirts. And white decals circle, swirl and surround the two women on the face of John Mastri's decorated double bass, I Wish I Was Your Lover. It's a lovely piece of subversion—the decoration of a classical instrument with the same material used to make bumper stickers—as well as an erotic call to make some "music" with your lover's body.
Good take-home, if you ask me.
This review appeared in print as "The Art of Noise: 'Off the Record' features music-inspired artwork that sometimes sings, sometimes is out of tune."