If you hate art and fun and toys—especially toys—you'll want to avoid "Exhibit A," Alpha Cult's new art show, with all your might. Just put on some Slipknot and lock yourself in a closet until this review is over. Pretend it's the closet from Blue Velvet. Oh, but wait, that might be fun.
Alpha Cult is just a toy store—albeit one selling seemingly every limited-edition collectible vinyl toy you've ever imagined. Camille Rose Garcia's creepy little girls are here; so are Mars-1's robots and what seems like a hundred Dunnys. They leer at you from display cases. They watch you with tiny, remorseless plastic eyes. Will they ever stop staring? For their store's first anniversary, owners Daniel Farias and Sally Sun surrendered to the toys—kinda what they did a year ago, isn't it?—and to our fascination with their toys and put on an art show that encouraged artists to make art out of their toys. (Know who would really hate this? Rebecca Schoenkopf. Toy hater.)
"Exhibit A" doesn't work your brain like a big-time arty museum show would. If you come out of here thinking about anything, it'll be "What toy did Blinky base his It's 'King Kung,' Mothafuckas! gorilla on?" Or, "That was an art show?" The line blurs between toys and art; between what's real and what's just someone's fever dream of what Martians and apes and weird bunnies look like. This is not a bad thing. Give your brain the day off; your brain'll love it.
You know you want to love art that's based on vintage comic strips. Just admit it. Give in to Nick da Ring's To theBatmocave, a piece with the superhero rendered large—twice, once blue, once white—over shellacked panels from an old Bat-strip. Let Blinky's thuggy gorilla King Kung, based on a vinyl Dunny (like a bunny) toy, be your friend. Allow Jovian's paintings on emptied, flattened aerosol cans—creepy little skulls and New York graffiti-style lettering—to wash over you with their . . . er, letters. This is art that is what it is. But if it looks good, does it need a deeper meaning? After all, what was Crows Over a Cornfield about? Some crows. Over a cornfield.
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I'm sure Blaine Fontana tried for a deeper meaning with his Intoxicated Keeper, a painting of a girl and a shoe. It looked like a Chuck Taylor; was that what it meant? Thirty-nine hundred dollars was the tariff on that little item. Maybe that was what it was all about.
"Exhibit A" is best when it's literal; when it doesn't try to think up questions it knows the answers to—as in John Michael Gill's redo-via-painting of those Mego game-playing eight-track robots from the '70s. There it was: 2-XL up on the wall for all to admire. Saw the real thing once, in a thrift store in Banning; loved it. Liked it this time too. And there was Danny Estrada's naked lowrider girl in Maravilla (the title means "wonder" in Spanish): maybe the most derivative piece here. Where had you seen it before? Let's see: the trunk of a '72 Caprice; someone's bicep; Lowrider Arte—pick one. But she was naked. And she was a girl, not a robot. Only robots like to look at naked robots. She was rad.
"EXHIBIT A" AT ALPHA CULT, 408 E. FIRST ST., STE. 102, LONG BEACH, (562) 432-9144. OPEN MON.-SAT., 11 A.M.-7 P.M.; SUN., 11 A.M.-5 P.M. THROUGH SEPT. 27. FREE.
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