Baude on 10th Circle

Brian Porray’s “Seahorse Sea Hell”

Hear that sound? That’s your neurons firing as you come through the door of The 10th Circle exhibition at Vast Space Projects. This group show of six early-to-mid-career LA artists delivers raw energy exploding from a Big Bang of color, shape and shine. But while you’re enjoying the euphoric rush, 10th Circle makes you wonder why you’re so darn happy in the first place.

From Scott Anderson’s vibrant techno-symbolist paintings to Wayne White’s robotic wood and metal sculptures to Erin Cosgrove’s garish caricatures of the Founding Fathers, this art sizzles. The brainchild of LA Times art critic David Pagel, 10th Circle is a curatorial tour de force: The works not only belong together, they also engage each other in dialogue about the possibility of beauty in a dystopian age.

Pagel takes inspiration from Dante, the Italian poet famous for describing the nine circles of hell (traitors at the center, gluttons near the edge). The 10th Circle expands the boundary of hell to include the complex cultural and political realm where we live and totter between redemption and doom.

The cheerful colors and slick surfaces can be outright deceptive. For example, Jaime Scholnick’s glitter and sparkle portraits of George W. Bush’s cabinet (Cheney looks fab in lime green and fuchsia) function as last-laugh satire. Although the political knifepoint is familiar, Scholnick’s work is fresh and sunny, and for that reason, comically powerful.

The tension between fetching surfaces and somber depths is even more pronounced in works by Kyla Hansen, Brian Porray and Nicolas Shake. Hansen’s oddly sexy Tiffany lamp geode creates the illusion of a natural object and provokes a what-the-heck-is-that double take. Porray’s large “4Nti EV1L-EY3″ painting seems a psychedelic patchwork but is really an interrogation of the visual cortex—more a kind of neurological episode than a static image.

Shake, the youngest artist in the show, exhibits paintings, photographs and sculptures. His mesmerizing canvas, “Epitaph for a Former Feast,” verges on figuration, but the painterly surface guards a mystery Dante might have envied. His edgy and beautiful “Throne” photograph of a found-object installation in the desert was chosen as a calling card for the show. Things may be rough and messy out there, it seems to say, but we must carry on anyway, with grit and as much joy as we can muster.

Published in the Las Vegas Weekly 

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