Kids These Days

Photo by Joy WeberPass the horrendously overpriced hipster togs—$58 for a cute-'n'-casual cotton top!—and the coffee table with the OC Metro placed artfully atop it. Head pretentiously to the back of Subject Matter boutique/gallery, where there is a second room. It's mostly empty, just a shiny wood floor that makes it look like a dance studio and a couch badly feng shuied in one corner (Subject Matter is clearly a place for hangin'!). And on the walls? The works of "Saber."

Now, the works of "Saber" aren't bad at all. They're varied in a manner suggesting they were completed for various undergrad painting and ceramics classes—we have some hyperrealist oils here, some nicely fired vases there, some shadow boxes, some Expressionist works that would make great tattoos, and a buncha graffiti like my son is now trying to perfect (he only knows how to do an S so far, but he practices all the time). I'm guessing the graffiti wasn't coursework. There are attractive small squares scumbled in pretty aqua and lightning and Angel, an elongated, vertical Mary or Bleeding Heart of Jesus crossed with an X-Files alien, with silver paint pouring from her/his/its palms. There is an entire wall filled with Gothic alphabets in small frames, ready to be sold to you, the discriminating buyer.

So what exactly is my problem this time? Well, the $58 top annoyed me, but the $1,000 price tag for Belmont? A cool realist image of downtown LA with graffiti slathered on tunnels and skies lighted with the Valkyries' flames? That is, um, a print? Who does this kid think he is? Thomas Kinkade? Or—with Tower, the tattoo-gun-ready column of eyeballs and spikes—Van Dutch?

Subject Matter is in a cred-heavy strip mall; it's got both Second Spin and Condom Revolution as neighbors. And they throw great parties for their openings, with DJs and kegs and tons of Costa Mesa kidz. And the whippersnappers should be making places of their own to show art and be boho without crotchety fogeys like me grumbling about it. But it's so very polished—the expensive threads, the expensive hair—when it should be scummy and smell like pee, like it did when Squelch et al. were perpetrating their excruciating performance art at Santiago Street to an overly literal Tom Waits soundtrack.

They're growing not artists, but graphic designers—competent in the forms of art and reveling in its perks (pussy, pussy and pussy), but the self-congratulations and the sheen remind me more of Gen Art than anything else. Gen Art was started by some Vassar students; they rented a Soho gallery, got Absolut to sponsor the occasion, and proceeded to show the most inane crap while sticking their noses so far up in the air and one another's butts they probably needed to get their septums undeviated after.

So what I'm saying is Subject Matter needs to get itself branded by Absolut, and then all the extreme trendsters like Paris Hilton and Mischa Barton and Liev Schreiber can come. Except not Liev Schreiber. He's way too old.

"Saber—The Seventh Letter" At Subject Matter Gallery, 1781 Newport Blvd., Ste. C, Costa Mesa, (949) 650-0900. Open Daily, noon-8 p.m. Through June 8. Free.


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