Critics’ Picks

Raymond Pettibon, No Title (I followed my . . .), 1992, pen and ink on paper, 18 x 12".

Los Angeles

“Kinky Sex (Makes the World Go 'Round)”

Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd.
January 20 - February 24

“We don’t even have to win this war,” snarls Jello Biafra over speakers in this group show that, not unlike the Dead Kennedys, struts and frets in ways both caustically irreverent and politically raw. The “Secretary of War” who narrates the tune (after which the show is named) outlines to another official the economic necessity of a new geopolitical conflict, a salient theme for this group of artists. Raymond Pettibon’s ink drawings are heartbreakingly human, playing off the grandiose iconography that brings men to war. In one, an image of an old soldier touching names on the Vietnam Memorial is accompanied by a rattling text composed of the titles of war films. Elsewhere, Erlea Maneros’s four deconstructed newspaper cutouts give individuality to each of the suits and soldiers swimming in the white space that surrounds them. More flippantly, Manuel Ocampo’s rough-and-ready painting Department of Homeland Security of Avant Garde Cliches, 2007, plays in the intersection of art, theory, and politics. Chris Johanson’s light-fingered echoes of Pettibon’s inked noirs employ a folksy naïveté both in content and in execution; one piece, an abstract kaleidoscope loquaciously titled Maybe Peace Is Love / Stop the Wars / Pro-activate USA in Peacefull / Co-exist Till Death Do Us Part, 2007, shows the split of the painting’s proceeds if sold (one-third to the artist, one-third to the gallery, and one-third to the ACLU).

Both oblique and heavy-handed, figurative and abstract, “Kinky Sex” questions the political relevance of antigovernment rhetoric in a gallery. But whether spray-painting the walls like Barry McGee’s mechanical vandal or quietly protesting as in Saul Alvarez’s photo of a lone man in a field sporting a sandwich board that reads I'LL HAVE NO PART IN YOUR END OF THE WORLD, the artists in this exhibition give necessary vent to both personal exasperation and the iconoclastic impulse.