Days of Being Wild
The Lab 101 Gallery
8530-B Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
August 25th-September 19th
Not to stray from their recent format of showcasing urban, illustrative artists, Culver City’s The Lab 101 Gallery enters September with “Days of Being Wild,” featuring the talents of Andy Kehoe, Kathleen Lolley, and Evan B. Harris. True to form, the included artists all share that graphic aesthetic for which The Lab seems to have a penchant, but were expressly chosen for this collection because of their mutual interest in whimsical narrations.
While the show has a decided children’s storybook sensibility, it matures this aesthetic with creatures that are more Hieronymus Bosch than Brothers Grimm and grace and grown-up humor not as present in the Little Golden Books. For example, Lolley’s characters are cigarette-smoking doe and medicine bottle-swigging owls. The juxtaposition created by placing these glossy-eyed, cute-as-a-button “critters” in such compromising scenarios (you’ll also find them swooping down in aircrafts and fatally punctured with arrows) is what makes them successful.
Lolley, who has spent much of her life living and working in Kentucky, boasts a sort of backwoods appeal, touched with influence of American folk art, often prevalent in such a region. Her acrylic works display the antiqued color you would typically find in that of Edward Hicks or Grant Wood. Lolley also contributes several tiny ink-on-book page drawings with fanciful gold frames. The intimate works further exhibit the preciousness of her quirky style.
Contrastingly, Andy Kehoe’s paintings take a step further away from “cutesy” into decidedly darker territory. Taking a cue from Where the Wild Things Are’s author/illustrator Maurice Sendak, Kehoe’s subjects are more monstrous in nature. With sharper teeth and more menacing expressions, his characters live in fantastically desolate landscapes, though the acrylic and griffin paintings nonetheless radiate energy with bold line work, moments of arresting color, and a high-gloss sheen. While his villains/heroes are markedly more gruesome (Cyclops/ox, two-headed crows, gun-wielding, smoke-headed soldiers), the unexpected vignettes provide enough humor to balance the darker tones.
Nestled somewhere between Art Nouveau and Tim Burton art direction lies Evan B. Harris, whose meticulously perfect (often symmetrical) compositions exhibit remarkable grace and beauty. Harris is particularly drawn to flora and fauna, his thought-out patterns akin to Oriental tapestry or classic tattoo designs. In his folktale-inspired narratives (with a nod to his Native American ancestry), delicate braches become animal bones and tears become diamonds. Though highly stylized, Harris treats his surfaces to achieve a washed out, antiqued finish which softens their otherwise graphic quality. The resulting works are at once haunting, endearing, and sentimental.
Beyond the obvious affiliation these artists have as illustrators who often pluck their subjects from the animal world, what makes their work most cohesive in this collection is their impressive imagination. Able to pull the viewer into a realm all their own, Lolley, Kehoe, and Harris have truly mastered the art of storytelling.
After several years working as one of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s primary visual arts journalists, Ashley Tibbits now lends her words to such West Coast sources as Flavorpill LA, ArtWeek, and RealTalk LA among others. When she isn’t judging the work of others, Ashley is developing her own mixed media/photography collection and praying that other critics will be write really nice things about it.
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