An Art Ménage à Trois at Grand Central Art Center's 'Subsumere: Assemblage'

Three Is a Magic Number
An art ménage à trois at Grand Central

The sorry truth about reviewing the arts at the pro level is that most art isn't good enough to get excited about, yet it's not bad enough to write something scathingly funny about. By the time you make it to your car after you walk out of most galleries, you barely remember what you just saw. Something red . . . with yellow dots? Or was it yellow with red dots? And then there was that pointy thing in the corner. Is that Chinese food you got on Monday still fresh enough to eat?

When I walked out of “Subsumere: Assemblage,” the latest show at Grand Central Art Center's Rental and Sales Gallery, I sure wasn't thinking about Chinese food. I can't remember the last time I saw a show that tore the top off my head the way this one did. This is the reason I go to galleries.

The Grand Central Art Center has had plenty of terrific shows, but usually, the really fascinating stuff is to be found in the main gallery, while the also-rans tend to end up over in the Rental and Sales Gallery—a place that, frankly, sounds more like a furniture showroom than a place where you'd expect to find great art. But right now, the Center's main gallery is all filled up with the Cal State Fullerton “Alumni Entertainment Graphics Exhibition,” a show that's really awesome if you get off on looking at design-studio portfolios. (If so, get ready to swoon when you see the logos for those Nickelodeon kiddie shows!) Rental and Sales, meanwhile, is kicking the main gallery's ass hard with “Subsumere: Assemblage,” featuring the work of Barry Krammes, Rebecca Edwards and Janice Lowry, three artists who do work so weird and compelling that we really wish Nickelodeon would give them a show, so they could get to work warping the fragile little minds of the pampered, porky kids we've got today.

We crowned Lowry OC's best artist in the Weekly's 2007 Best of OC, and we're flattered to see that she's plastered that title all over her PR materials. You know how sometimes you rave about something to a friend (“Dude, you have got to check out 24!”), and then they go and check it out at the exact moment that it starts to really stink, and you end up looking like an idiot for raving about it? (“No, 24 was good—I swear!“) Well, we're pleased to report that Lowry has not started to stink since we talked her up.

She is still doing really interesting work with little, found-object monster people in shadowboxes, and in this show, she has a whole deal going with a collection of bottles containing samples of water from around the world. There's something weirdly profound about all of these old-timey bottles holding water from Vienna or Fort Bragg. You find yourself thinking some surprisingly deep thoughts about water; it's mundane and miraculous, simultaneously the most boring and the most lovely substance on Earth. (Of course, we're going to feel pretty goofy if it turns out that Lowry is just pulling some arty stunt and she got this stuff straight out of the tap in Anaheim.)

Maybe 2007 was Lowry's year, but in Barry Krammes, we already have a serious contender for our favorite artist of 2008. Jesus, this guy's stuff is cool. He makes these tabletop environments that look kind of like dollhouses that have been possessed by demons. Overflowing with squirmy detail, each piece is a little masterpiece of creepy beauty. His Insanity, built in what looks like an old sewing-machine cabinet, is like something you would find in your grandma's attic if your grandma were Edward Gorey. Rebecca Edwards also contributes some amazing work here, with a series of fairytale scenes that would give the Grimm Brothers nightmares. I have no idea what her Nipple Muffins is supposed to say, but you have to admit that it means what it says.

A show by any one of these artists would be worth rushing off to see. But all three of them, at once? Well, drop this paper where you stand, pausing only to stretch your quads, and then jog right over to the Center. And even with a good wind behind you, you might still be too late—the show only runs until Sunday.


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