Only Too Clever by Half

Photo by Rebecca SchoenkopfThere comes a moment in the Office's“Bag of Tricks” when you must wonder: Why is the trs-'97 crepe-paper mandala filled with peanuts? Why? The only resonance the peanut has in our culture is its connexion with Best President Ever Jimmy Carter. (And how did Carter get slaughtered for being soft on terrorism in 1980 when he didn't lose a single hostage—while Bush got re-elected after multiple beheadings? Oh, sorry, do I digress?) So is installationista Danielle Segura somehow connecting “the girl stuffed in the piata” (apparently a news story some time ago that people are supposed to remember) with Jimmy Carter? Border control? Terrorism? Beheadings?

I know but one thing: Fuq Iraq!

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“Bag of Tricks” is a modest littleexhibition, not on a par with the Office's recent shows, but it has its charms. Darlene DeAngelo of the Huntington Beach Art Center guest curated the show and brought her Paul Frank connections to bear (his three adorable pieces should bring in a swell of interest—and they hold up much better when he doesn't need to carry 3,000 square feet of gallery all on his own). The show includes Frank's leather self-portrait, Segura's installation and completely unrelated paintings by Dee Small. The gimmick—or unifying theme—is that each artist uses materials from old works to make new ones (hence the bag of tricks), but if that's the case, what material is Small reusing? Her paintbrush?

Small's paintings are actually the most visually satisfying of the works—splash and slash and drip paintings that usually make me want to poke someone else's eyes out. Small's, though, have a really compelling depth and crunch to them under a happy, shiny high gloss that may have finally tipped me off to what the hell John McCracken's resinated planks have been trying to accomplish for decades.

That gloss is important (just ask those $30,000 McCrackens); two of Small's paintings are the gleaming slash works and two are big puddle-of-paint works embossed clumsily and clunkily with collaged materials (or, in one nicer case, paint dripped through a doily for a lacy border). But the texture of the latter two paintings was distracting; looking at a reflection of them in the window made for better paintings than standing right in front of them did.

“Bag of Tricks” is a slight show, which doesn't usually happen at the Office despite its tiny space. But set in the sucking void that's Orange County art right now, the Office and “Tricks” become much more, thanks to sucking much less.


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