'14@<40': Young at Art

Recently, a photographer friend of mine was grousing about how she felt shut out of the art market because of collectors' incessant focus on youth. I was sympathetic, but argued that art collectors are just being smart business people: Collect when an artist is young and prices are low, hope they'll gain prestige, and then cash in.

Few of the artists in the fascinating “14@<40” at the Frank M. Doyle Art Pavilion are at that stage yet, but several are interesting enough that a walk through the gallery may make you want to start buying. Arts Pavilion Acting Director Trevor Norris Has chosen well, his curated grouping of the artists near others working in the same medium or theme, simple and graceful. 

It begins with a painting you can’t see: Matthew Driggs’ glow-in-the dark ship, Passing Gently In the Night. The Arts Pavilion generally closes before nightfall, so you can only see the work Wednesdays when it shutters at 8 p.m., making the artwork that much cooler because of its limited availability.

I was amused by Ruth Greene's minimalist Wild Mustang, a brown canvas with a scratch across the middle as if someone had keyed a crap paint job, but the muted, bleached colors of her other canvases are reminiscent of a depressed Barnett Newman. Nicolas Shake's untitled oil on canvas gets a lot of mileage out of its thick, swirling, black splotches, as if parked under a junker while someone did a brake job. I liked his photos even better: The dramatically lit trash heap of milk crates, palm fronds and a wooden mattress frame is less captivating than the blurred human figure adding motion to the calm scene of Shaking the Light.

Joshua Aster's repetition and overlapping of shapes reminds me of grade-school tracing assignments, but I was absolutely absorbed by Little Conversations, ovals (with hairlines) “conversing” as other ovals act as if buffers, preventing physical connection, his color palette lively in a way absent from the other work on display. Javier Carrillo's portraits of an immigrant laborer, El Mojado and Pal-Jale, are both painted with backgrounds of ironic Home Depot orange, their naive simplicity carrying a political payload. There's geek cred in the title of Max Johnston's graffiti piece The Banhammer Project (Refusal of Conventional Principles), but the subject matter, topless redhead bisected at the waist, entrails and spinal cord spilling out, aerosol can in one hand, wielding a branch of green like Boudicca's sword, just made me want to ask, “WTF?” The untitled color photo near Jocelyn Foye's oversized, charcoal-dusted canvases is the only clue you'll have to understanding the work, and it's not enough. Lastly, Emmanuel Galvez's Mexican pastries seem like a rehash of Julie Bozzie's very similar work this year at the Laguna Art Museum.

JEFF&GORDON's Draw! video is a highlight: The two sit at an outdoor café; whip out sketchpads, pen and pencil; then scratch away. Edited to give it a cruise-y vibe—all eyes and furtive glances, gentle nods and moving hands—we don't see the final result, just rapid quick-cuts building to a Sopranos blackout climax. It took me a moment to “get” McLean Fahnestock's series of Rocketless Launch photos of blast offs—rockets air-brushed from the pictures so just plumes of exhaust remain—but it arrived just as the cacophony of sound began for her stunning video Grand Finale, a grid of 135 rockets shooting into the stratosphere.

Liz Nurenberg's Body Pressure With Wedges (Homage to Bruce Nauman) requires interaction from people pressing her handmade fabric and foam shapes to one another's bodies, but I was not inclined to do the heavy lifting myself.

Noah Thomas' gorgeous mixed-media sculptures use trees to evoke a vision of dream-like flight: The trunk of a small tree has polygons of glue-stiffened nylon attached to the branches that resemble dozens of small sails. The briar patch of hollowed-out trunks in Hover hang from the ceiling, painted white with Gesso, tiny fans in the hollows causing it to shift with the breeze.

Turning doorknobs is a staple of horror films, but while Michael Bizon's installation Doorknob is divorced from its usual home and attached to a wall, continuously revolving, it makes us examine that silly cliché and still delivers uneasy chills. Drawer also removes the familiar from its surroundings—here it juts out of the drywall—but the light emanating inside drives it into Pulp Fiction territory. Bizon's slowly revolving chair about to tip, desk covered with playing cards and horrific gelatinous cigarette butts in Solitare Cycle feels equally filmic, like the dizzy moment prior to a slow-motion shootout.

Christian Tedeschi's conceptual art closes the show on a socially conscious note: Hexagram's six black gloves filled with concrete, tethered to two red rags, bring to my mind squeegee bums, minus their dirty bottle of Windex; Oblivion or Abyss is resin-soaked knit headwear and a playing card attached to the wall at ground level, its unseen figure's future wholly dependent on the card he (or she) is played.


Dave Barton has written for the OC Weekly for over twenty years, the last eight as their lead art critic. He has interviewed artists from punk rock photographer Edward Colver to monologist Mike Daisey, playwright Joe Penhall to culture jammer Ron English.

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