Woodland Creatures and a Lemon-Octopus: Imaginative Paintings from Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins

May 19, 2016 8:00PM

Cutesy woodland creatures, crumbling dystopian walls, Alice in Wonderland–esque parties. The artwork of Greg “Craola” Simkins is a veritable cornucopia of classic Americana imagery, distorted through a fantastical lens. His work, a selection of which is on view in a solo show at KP Projects/ MKG in Los Angeles, explodes with unique style unsatisfied by the ordinary and the everyday.

Childhood games and imagined adventures are central to Simkins’ artistic inspiration. “What worlds exist beyond the walls we cast shadows on each day?” he asks in his artist statement. These paintings refuse logic, bringing a Dali-esque surrealist eye to a host of pop-culture imagery. The styles he summons are numerous and varied, from the kitsch of Thomas Kincaid to the otherworldly creatures that populate cartoons like Adventure Time. Linking this array of influences is key to Simkins’ painterly skill.

Humor abounds. Each piece brims with small, absurdist details, as in Lighter (2016), which imagines a small, croquet-playing swordsman whose head is a hand grasping a lit candle. Yellow (2016) crosses a lemon, an octopus, and a tattooed sailor into one wild creature, equal parts menacing and adorable.

The show’s main attractions, however, are Simkins’ large paintings, each focusing on a single narrative scene. In Beyond Shadows (2016), a graffiti-tagged wall has crumbled to reveal a parade of animals, including a school of floating fish and a toucan riding a mustachioed deer.

In The Glass Piñata (2016), a group of children party in an apocalyptic landscape dotted with freakish animals, not a parent in sight. While evoking the kind of anarchic joy found in stories like Lord of the Flies, the scene imagines the freedoms—and fright—of life without supervision or rules. Simkins’ world is unbound by logic, committed only to pushing his imagination as far as it can go.

—A. Wagner

Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins: Beyond Shadows” is on view at KP Projects/ MKG, Los Angeles, May 21–Jun. 18, 2016.

Follow KP Projects/ MKG on Artsy.