With the economy tightening its musty, thick-fingered hands around the throat of an already undernourished arts community, it's a small joy to see that three galleries have gathered together to do better with others what they were already doing well on their own. PÄS Gallery, Violet Hour Studio and OC Weekly favorite Hibbleton Gallery have gathered together to form the Magoski Arts Colony, and their Fullerton space on Santa Fe Avenue is crammed full of art at present.
Hibbleton co-owner Jesse La Tour was still hanging paintings and getting title cards when he graciously introduced me to one of Violet Hour Studio's owners, Mike Magoski, in the process of setting up local artist Charlie Visnic's mind-numbing exhibition of 365 days of creativity. Far from finished when I stepped in to look, the exhibition of one art piece a day for a year was already overwhelming at the midstage. La Tour also introduced me to PÄS Gallery owner Brian Prince, who was finishing prep on the opening of “Welcome to Nowhereland” with artist Jonathan St. Amant.
Playfully adolescent, St. Amant's work is a geek paradise of warrior robots (named Brobots here since they drive monster cars and drink beer), Winnebagos floating midair, panty-wearing fauns loping through magical forests and dueling black-clad ninjas. It would be laughably cheeseball if it weren't abundantly clear the artist, tongue jammed forcefully in cheek, wasn't having such a good time in a wide variety of medium: sculpture, painting, drawings and mixed-media installations.
His epic piece, God Is On Our Side, has ninjas dressed in black and white. Axes, samurai swords and knives scatter body parts in a bloodbath worthy of the Bride's battle with the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1 . . . except the Tarantino film didn't have gigantic tree sloths or spiked Gamera turtles, which means that St. Amant is cooler. The clean lines of the two ninjas bisecting each other with swords in Cancellation are as apt a metaphor for mutually assured destruction since King-Size Canary.
La Tour also walked me back to Book Machine, Hibbleton's new zine/bookstore in a small room just left of PÄS. Adorning the walls above numerous shelves harboring many a bound tome of wisdom are La Tour's low-fi Sharpie and crayon on computer-paper portraits of famous authors, poets and playwrights—Shakespeare, Allen Ginsberg, Flannery O'Connor, Ray Bradbury, even the Weekly's own Gustavo Arellano. As intentionally crude as the pictures are, the authors are all instantly recognizable, and I liked them enough to drop $5 on one of my favorite scribes, John Steinbeck, a cigarette smoldering in his left hand. (Sorry, Gustavo!)
The Hibbleton's main exhibition is spare and far less interesting than its neophyte bookstore. The idea behind “F* It!” is supposed to be a rallying cry to artists to work outside their comfort zones in theme or medium. Curator Bekka Utermohlen gave the artists an unspecified time limit to work in, with the planned pieces going up on the walls at deadline, finished or not. Problem is, we aren't given any backstory or examples of the artists' work prior to their leap into creative darkness, so while we can judge the individual pieces as a pass or a fail, we have no idea whether they're successful in their risk-taking.
A handful are accomplished and thoughtful—Ryan Clemens' there's always one bad apple in every family is powerful thematically, as is Janet Kim's Daniel Clowes-esque Fuck This Shit—but most of the pictures are unremarkable. The few that unsettle (Apricot Mantle's gory odes to the Beach Party movies, Elizabeth Bathory and Jessica Ward's unnerving drawings of trichophagic women) are discomfiting without the benefit of anything but the most obvious of subtexts. Despite Utermohlen's catchy title, there's no particular skill bringing that concept to life, with one getting the feeling from her undercurated show that she got bored half-way through what she was doing and said, “Fuck it” herself.
This article appeared in print as “Cooler Than Tarantino: The newly formed Magoski Arts Colony already impresses with multiple exhibits, even a bookstore.”
Dave Barton has written for the OC Weekly for over twenty years, the last eight as their lead art critic. He has interviewed artists from punk rock photographer Edward Colver to monologist Mike Daisey, playwright Joe Penhall to culture jammer Ron English.