Los Angeles-based artist Mark Licari is known for—for lack of a better phrase—drawing outside the lines. He’s scrawled his intricate, twisted wall drawings, like a free-reigning mischievous child, all over some very adult places—like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he drew the entranceway to their “Drawing Surrealism” show; the 5th Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art, where he created a massive collaborative mural with artists Andrea Bianconi and Ricardo Lanzarini; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium. His new show at Koplin del Rio, “Vector, Accelerate to Zilch,” sees him reel in the scale and actually make contained works on paper, but the creative bursts remain as exigent as always.
The show is made up of two separate bodies of work. The “Vector” series is Licari’s stylish interpretation of a deck of playing cards, though the conceptual conceit becomes divergent down to the suits—Licari has replaced the usual diamonds, hearts, clubs, and spades with eyes, flies, leaves, and bolts. The cards, each of which is an oversized 7” x 5”, all have figurations of a mysterious, cultish nature, giving them the look of a deck of tarot cards; the ace cards, for instance, show angels of differing persuasions, and one of the kings depicts a bursting supernova with a cryptic key symbol in the foreground.
The second theme in the show, “Accelerate to Zilch,” is a series of 26 drawings, one for each letter of the alphabet, and each with its own narrative image; B is for “Bottomless Pit,” for example. The drawing, which is split into top and bottom frames, shows the street view of the pit, while the bottom section is a cross-section of the hole and the layers of the earth around it. “Infest” uses the same framing device, the top frame a close-up of a terrifying ant, and the pulled-back bottom frame showing a cluster of ants.
Though the drawings are traditionally formal works on paper, Licari’s signature nervous lines and dark content remain. And that alone gives the works an outsider, punk feeling reminiscent of Raymond Pettibon or Gary Panter, which means that though there is a structure, Licari still can’t seem to stay inside the box.