Mighty Irvine Power Artists
Remember Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that crazy kids' show in which they took a bunch of footage from some old Japanese TV series and spliced in a bunch of new stuff featuring American actors who were slightly less-gifted thespians than the cast of the average porn movie? The plot concerned a teenage super-team that was constantly defending the Earth from sweaty stuntmen in big, rubber monster suits. The teenagers would each ride around in these giant robots, and they'd stomp around a model of a city and strike ninja poses. When the shit was really going down, they would all link their giant robots into one really big giant robot, and then they'd kick some serious monster butt. Separately, the teenagers were capable of great feats. But together, they were unstoppable!
You could say that "Site Specific," the new group show at the Irvine Fine Arts Center, is a lot like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. If you go to the show, you won't see people dressed up like giant robots and stomping around a model city (still, we wish!), but like the teenage super-team, the talented artists in this show are a much more potent force gathered together than they would be separately. When their powers are combined, they kick some serious monster butt.
Eric Smail's installation, weirdly enough, actually looks a lot like something you'd see decorating the main room of the Power Rangers' undersea headquarters. (Did the Rangers even have an undersea headquarters? It's been a long time, people.) The wall is covered with these big, multicolored hexagons, and in the center of it, there's this 3-D multicolored . . . object made of little, multicolored shapes. It looks like it should light up and a voice should come out of it to tell you that Skrotor's meteor is now directly on a course for Washington. There's a similar but even more complex object squatting on the floor nearby, and it's easy to picture these two having funny robot arguments, C3PO-and-R2D2-style. Whatever the heck Smail's art is supposed to be, it's cool in a very geeky way, and you'll want to steal it, take it home and set it up in your garage.
David French's art looks like you've done too much acid and the gallery is melting. Seriously, he's got these big, blobby things dribbling down from the ceiling, oozing up from the floor and jabbing out at you from the walls, and if you stare at them long enough, you'll feel like it's time to lie down in your car for a while and sleep it off. But before you do, be sure to check out the sculptures of Noah Thomas; they're lovely pieces that look like somebody miniaturized bits of Monument Valley and set them up on rickety little scaffolds for you to walk amongst like some sort of giant robot. (See, we've hitched ourselves to this stupid Power Rangers thing here, and we're just gonna ride it into the ground.)
We think we're in love with Kiel Johnson. Not in that way, but we'd definitely shag his art—it's that beautiful. (But would his art call us in the morning?) Johnson makes some amazing sculptures and drawings, obsessively detailed, imaginary worlds and vehicles and other stuff that he just pulls right out of his brain. Go to Kieljohnson.com right this instant—we'll wait—and you'll be so dazzled your eyeballs will drool. Then go to this show and try to resist the impulse to dry-hump his little statues. (If you do give in, the gallery attendant will probably just sigh quietly and go back to reading her book. We're sure they've been getting that sort of thing a lot since Johnson's art was unveiled.) The neat gizmos on display here—such as Johnson's wooden shooting-gallery deal with the crazy spaceships (you have to see it to understand what we're talking about) are but the smallest fraction of this guy's endless, trippy output.
There's other stuff, too, but we have a word count and errands to run today, so we'll just tell you to get your butt over to Irvine and leave it there. We're certain you'll leave the gallery singing, "Go, go, Power Artists! You Mighty Irvine Power Artists!"
"Site Specific" at the Irvine Fine Arts Center, Heritage Park, 14321 Yale Ave., Irvine, (949) 724-6880. Open Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Through Aug. 31. Free.
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