The art show—and auction—at The Lab's annual Orange County Design Collective holiday blowout wasn't even really called a show at all. Or a survey—which it is. And that was great, because who really needs a survey show if it's just going to be another harumph-y, big-named extravaganza that tries to out-stare you with stuff that's been done better elsewhere? Not that we object to drinking white wine over it; just that adding a bunch of full-bearded, fedora-ed hipsters brings it down to a human level. And humans still make the art, of which there was an abundance in the 30-odd canvases (and skateboard decks) in attendance.
Sure, there are those among us who hate Shriners and bikinied wimmen holding .45-caliber automatics, painted on skateboards; and to them we say: just don't look. Ian Morris's Lust Left Holding the Smoking Gun, a noirish take on the catacombs—fez-wearing skulls, and the aforementioned dame—had been done before, but not this scarily. It was every bit as sinister as what you'd see from a Glenn L. Barr, much more three-dimensionally drawn—and probably not any more expensive. This is definitely the kind of art you'll buy when you move out of your parents' house. I say that like it's a bad thing; it's not. You've got to start somewhere, and David Geffen's ongoing Everything-Must-Go Sale is not it.
OCDC was, if you didn't mind bidding against a jury of your peers; proceeds benefited Children's Hospital of Orange County. A section of one wall was given over to paintings from eVOCAL artists, whose nearby store is another nexus for lowbrow art. The eVOCAL owner gave me one of those handshakes that grinds the bones in your hand together; it made him stand out from the crowd in his beard and fedora. One of his artists delivered The Sun,an abstraction of the sun, who was a happy, stoned-looking dude resembling Talib Kweli (also a stoned-looking dude). He was overlooked by what seemed to be an elephant eye, while at what would have been his feet, geometric breakers rolled in. Ocean Pacific should put this on a shirt immediately; it deftly reimagines what they were doing in the '70s—and what they're reissuing now. Like eVOCAL's half-dozen other works, it was all very future hippie, with sanded little blocks of plywood actually intruding onto the canvases, further cropping the images. Another standout from their store was Soul, a gorgeous portrait of a woman in a headband that ended in a pair of eighth-notes in the middle of her forehead. Her kinky hair made you think "Erykah Badu"—but it was all an optical illusion: her dreads were really a headful of arrows that made them look like wild braids.
Other standouts included someone called Ramsey Dau, who gave us Everybody Wants Some, a pink silhouette of a bikini girl, the word "Love" (maybe it was "Coke") poking her in the belly. She was very . . . druggy. Scrawled on the canvas in pencil was the sentence "Everybody is looking for that one thing that is going to make it better." You can't get that from love.
Nearby, The Bonesby George Anthony Ber made a somewhat successful raid on the Ed "Big Daddy" Roth clich, with his painting of a Rat Fink-esque monster riding a skateboard made from a bloody knife. It might be time to revisit Roth if we could ever let him go, which we can't. But skating on a knife? Gets 'em every time.
More telling was Kenny Wilkins' beautiful bitmapped painting of two palm trees, in a warm, dark color scheme that came off like infrared film. It was untitled and simplistic: a painting of trees we imported here, and which we're not replacing as they die off. We're the greatest. And Wilkins painted it on the bottom of a skateboard deck—though you would never, ever ride it home. You'd ship it very, very carefully. Suddenly, OCDC wasn't so different from your big-pants art auction after all.
ORANGE COUNTY ART SURVEY AT THE LAB, 2930 BRISTOL ST., COSTA MESA, (714) 966-6661. CALL FOR HOURS. FREE.
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