Paul Klee famously described some of his later, jittery-looking work as "taking a line for a walk." The artists in "Living Lines," the new show at the J Flynn Gallery, all do work that's line-based, but their lines don't just walk. Some of them dance gracefully across the canvas. Some of them stagger around drunkenly. Some of them march around purposefully. These are some busy lines!
Of the artists presented, the crudest and most inexplicable—and maybe our favorite—is Brent Harada, an LA-based scribbler who creates these prickly looking little monsters covered with the kind of obsessive pen marks that make us think of outsider art, or the stuff that pissed-off teenagers draw on their desks when they think the teacher isn't looking. Derek Albek's charming drawings are somewhat more refined, featuring little guys covered in elaborate patterning somewhat resembling the finery of a king on a playing card. But despite their fancy duds, they have these skuzzy-looking, sickly faces that let you know right away they're up to no good.
Of course, it's possible to be too slick, and Ralph Silerio is arguably guilty. His portraits are impressively executed, but the accompanying copy discusses his "market-worthy appeal" upfront, and one gets the feeling the market is maybe a little too important to Silerio. David Choong Lee's stuff is also technically impressive but fails to dazzle us—sort of like the covers of '70s jazz-funk fusion albums. Tommii Lim's work, by contrast, is super-slick but makes up for it by being kind of crazy. What the hell is going on with that big ninja dude carrying approximately 300 pounds of electronics on his back and clutching pink and green bananas in his hairy, gorilla hands? Well, we're not going to ask the gorilla ninja for his story; we'll just let him lumber on by to find someplace to check his e-mail and enjoy his inappropriately colored Chiquitas.
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We've been following Marco Zamora's work for a while, and he has another winner in this show. He draws fat, saggy people in cityscapes crowded with fat, saggy buildings. Here, he's got a pair of working-class giants—a man and a woman, both maybe 80 feet tall—going about their lonesome lives as a tiny metropolis bustles obliviously at their feet. In the background, another giant goes about his own business, and the three colossi seem as glumly indifferent toward one another as the rest of the city is toward them.
Jay Steiner draws weird, sly-looking horses and alcoholic-looking cowboys, and if he wants to carry on with this sort of thing, it'd be fine by us. Matzu MTP, on the other hand . . . oh, how do we put this without sounding mean? Well, frankly, somebody needs to work a little harder. We've checked out your website, Matzu, and we know you can do better than this. You can babble all you like about graffiti culture and Japanese art, but this thing you're trying to pass off as a finished work here still kind of looks like something you doodled on a splotchy napkin while you were talking on the phone with somebody you didn't like very much.
ART NOTES: Jeez, it's like some people have never even heard of press releases or something. By the time you read this, Stephen Cefalo's terrific show of oil paintings at Anaheim's Sarah Bain Gallery will be mere days (hell, maybe even hours) away from closing. Cefalo paints these one-of-a-kind scenes of white-trash loveliness—gawky, homely-ish little girls and pregnant ladies and deadbeat daddies, all depicted with comic insight but also with more love than some of these troubled souls probably deserve. As much as we would've loved to have devoted an entire column to the show, we didn't even know it existed until about 12 hours ago . . . no thanks to whoever does PR for the Sarah Bain. You'll just have to call in sick at work tomorrow and rush over there to see this thing. It'll be a pain in the ass, and maybe it'll get you fired, but trust us . . . seeing Guinevere's Feast will be worth any number of hours in the unemployment line.
"LIVING LINES" AT THE J FLYNN GALLERY, 2950A RANDOLPH AVE., COSTA MESA, (714) 708-3504; WWW.JFLYNNGALLERY.COM. CALL FOR HOURS. THROUGH OCT. 6; STEPHEN CEFALO AT SARAH BAIN GALLERY, 411 W. BROADWAY, STE. C, ANAHEIM, (714) 758-0545. CALL FOR HOURS. THROUGH SAT.