July 20, 2008

Retinal probe at Laguna Beach

In "In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor," The Laguna Art Museum presents the work of 150 artists who have a visual affinity with merch-happy Juxtapoz magazine. Founded in San Francisco in 1994 by Robert Williams, the Juxtapoz aesthetic references movies, TV, advertising, black-velvet painting, psychedelic posters, pulp porn, sci-fi and horror, carnival art, comics books, and other lowbrow ephemera. Sixties icons Von Dutch, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, R. Crumb, Stanley Mouse, and Rick Griffin are among their patron saints. In the OC Weekly Greg Stacy reports that the show is not just an art exhibit, it’s a reason to live. "Seriously, if you’ve been contemplating suicide, 'The Juxtapoz Factor' is a very good reason to reconsider. At the very least, postpone your plans to jump off a bridge until after you’ve had a chance to make it to this thing. That way, when your life flashes before your eyes as you plummet toward the jagged rocks below, you’ll get to enjoy flashes of artists such as R. Crumb, Mark Ryden and Elizabeth McGrath. Believe me, there are worse ways to go....Wall after wall is covered with complicated, brain-straining art, each work boasting obsessive craftsmanship and all sorts of weird, personal symbolism. There are approximately 150 artists on display here, all vying for your attention. Try to take it in all at once, and you’ll leave with your eyes so bugged-out and your skull so swollen you’ll look like one of Ryden’s girls." Read more.

In the
Union-Tribune, Robert L. Pincus reports that the show is entertaining but poorly focused and barely explained. "Where curator Meg Linton goes wrong is with her inclusion of artists that draw on pop culture or use styles loosely related to this lowbrow circle. Jeffrey Vallance is one of the most brilliant appropriators of pop culture around, but his deadpan wit developed wholly separate from the Juxtapoz crowd. Jon Swihart is a realist painter who occasionally diverges into a surreal subject, as in the painting on view. But his sensibility really doesn't fit. These are just two of several questionable choices."Given these problems, it's unfortunate that the catalog won't appear until close to the end of the show. This is one exhibition where you really want to know more about the curator's point of view. Why didn't she focus more tightly on the artists central to the movement? Why only one Robert Williams painting – the one that gives the show it's title? Better to have more works by him, since he is so central, and less by artists who blur the focus. There are plentiful highlights in Linton's tour of this 'land,' but sometimes the guide seems to have lost her way – and we do too." Read more.

"In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor," curated by Meg Linton. Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA. Through Oct. 5. The list of artists is way too long to post, but go to the website for artist info.

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