Radness is Happening

Photos by Tenaya Hills”This is a giant fuck-you to the Laguna Art Museum,” my friend said at the opening of “Beautiful Losers.” I laughed. It was. A sharper, newer, skankier version of the subculture shows for which Laguna's curator Tyler Stallings (who was then at the Huntington Beach Art Center) was so justly famed in the '90s.

And with a lot more fixation on ass.

There is boy ass; girl ass; boy ass drawn fluid and soft, like girl ass; girl ass farting; girl ass with stubble; girl ass with a rose stuck in it. Really. There's a lotof ass.

There's a lot of vagina, too. Furry vagina, shaved vagina, vagina on a muscular girl who's a ringer for Minnie Driver.

Skater boys, when they're not skating or watching people skating or playing video games about skating, like sex. They're dirty. They're bad. They're the artists in this traveling show.

And in today's climate—and I don't think I'm being paranoid about today's climate—they're practically Weimar Republic just begging for Hitler to round them all up and call them Degenerate.

Ooh, did I just call our nation's culture warriors “Hitler”? Again?

My bad.

“Beautiful Losers” is the best in a long line of terrific shows since Liz Armstrong and Irene Hofmann took over curation at OCMA; what had been a lovely place for society's top matrons to lunch (some kept private linens there) amid shiny slabs Joseph Maschek once called the work of “hip young dropout types . . . making fancy baubles for the rich” has become an utterly offensive, divine place to be.

I feel like Karen Finley even talking about it.

Everywhere you look in “Beautiful Losers,” there are Ari Marcopoulos' homoerotic pix of wet boys just out of the shower and girls with shaved pudendae. There is, of course, the ass (Todd James' poofy farts, Clare E. Rojas' sleek-as-an-otter feminized cartoon men, some getting their salads tossed, others with cartoon comb-overs and shaggy balls), of which I think we've said enough, except we probably haven't. There's Brian Donnelly's photo documentation of his really witty street paintings, a cartoon skull and crossbones inserted almost digitally into ads for Guess and milk and whatever Linda Evangelista's selling.

In one of the very few works in the huge exhibit not to focus on grody raunch (maybe the only other is Brazilian twins Os Gemeos' sweet and funny patio installation featuring a mural and a dirt lot), Chris Johanson builds a big, beautiful Geodesic Dome; inside, the walls are lined with TVs, each featuring a hippie on a bongo drum, with a different Teletubby-flat background color. I've been there! I've been in that 4 a.m. drum circle! Only I played a shakey thing while a Brazilian blonde whaled on the drums.

I don't really want to hang outwith skaters, but who knew the humor centers of their brains were so unimpaired after all these years?

There are some big-time West Coast guys here: Craig Stecyk offers up a full-wall black-and-white collage (my favorite is the picture of the sign outside the back exit from the Grand Canyon, “Nice Indians Behind You”; when I saw that sign, my boy and I flipped a bitch to buy some buffalo jerky and a pretty $8 turquoise necklace, but the memories this collage jogs will be different for you).

Ray Pettibon offers his Roy Lichtenstein/Pop-flavored zines and cartoons, slick and sly.

Ed Templeton gets a whole room—The Cul-de-Sac of Lameness—in which to offer a mix of almost garage-sale-style naf paintings and photos of boys petting girls' snatches, kids giggling and about to get it on, shaved cooters and bushy cooters and sweet girls in clothes, people showing drug wounds, and a long, scrawled story (many of Templeton's photos have stories at the margin) about some skater kids trying to play “hide-a-dook” with some mean hotel maids but getting stage fright before the deed can be done. Sometimes his stories are moralistic, sometimes sad, sometimes indifferent, and sometimes a reflection on young skater love.

Those are all delightful, dooky things.

But in this age, again, I want raunch. And while Templeton's works often are that, the fact there's any ambivalence or conscience at all makes me gravitate instead to the wholly appalling. And that would be New York-based Vice mag's Terry Richardson. Because even as New York itself becomes wholesome and bland and full of fancy playthings for the rich, its shady nooks are still the go-to place for Taxi Driver scum.

Richardson is grotesque, like the best contestants on reality shows. With a stupid grin on his face, he photographs himself holding his relatively big penis or girls (some ghastly, some adorably blond and all-American) flashing, la Girls Gone Wild, their small, perky boobs. Or himself and his penis and the girls. Or himself and his penis with a teddy bear atop it.

The ladies' lunch? They just might lose it.

Photos by Tenaya Hills

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