Pop Art, Abstract Painting, and Collage Comment on Sexuality and Contemporary Culture at JoAnne Artman Gallery

A toothy smile opens to reveal a cherry-red circle. Plastic toy dogs sport functional collars, spaced as if in a factory’s assembly line. Two leather-clad women cross limbs midair, their clothes reflecting an imagined light source. Multifarious realities collide at “Life Candy,” a group exhibition on view at JoAnne Artman Gallery, in which artists engage with the practices of pop art, abstract painting, and hyperrealism—and add in their own flavor and edge.

Marjorie Strider’s rendering of the female form—cropped, exaggerated, sexualized—may seem crass and even problematic to some viewers. Posed like pinups and decorated with accessories, including rose stems, balloons, and bikinis, the women in Strider’s paintings seem to be more objects of fantasy than subjects with their own agencies. But Strider’s women meet their voyeur’s gaze head on, with knowing eyes, making the artist’s intent clear: to challenge the male gaze and subvert accepted practices of voyeurism.

Vibrant colors, bold lines, and a liberal use of black paint comingle in America Martin’s work. Formally, Women, Wind and Sea Flowers feels like Picasso’s Guernica reincarnated; all disembodied limbs and clunky forms, it’s as stunning as it is menacing. But the historical specificities of Martin’s work diverge quite sharply from Picasso’s. Just as Picasso deals with the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War, Martin is concerned with the representation of female, indigenous identities.

Anthony Hunter’s works, with their color field-like splashes of blues and yellows, feel effortless and yet wholly intentional—sections of negative space offset sections of heavy color saturation. James Verbicky’s collages are similarly striking; compared to Hunter’s paintings though, they are more concrete than abstract. Adopting a Kruger-esque play with text and image, Citta Samtana Metonymy Diptych 1 feels like flicking through the pages of a newspaper. The text—“the avant-garde,” “transformation,” “the advantages of being”—reads like loving little jabs at the lexicon of art criticism.

The artists included in “Life Candy” articulate their visions in familiar ways—with loud colors, found text, and expressive brushstrokes. But between the collaged bits and color-blocked edges of their pieces, a subversive mood surfaces and breaks through the noise.

 —Anna Furman

Life Candy” is on view at JoAnne Artman Gallery, Laguna Beach, California, Dec. 1, 2014–Jan. 31, 2015.

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