Los Angeles

Jory Felice

3-day Weekend

Jory Felice’s exhibition was one of the raddest shows in the first half of 1995. In a universe of either the “anal retentive control freak show” or the “super ‘fuck it’ slackfest installation,” Felice has quietly gone about the business of making amazing pictures. Retreating into the lush imagination of tender boyhood, Felice conjures a to-scale cardboard model of his own ’83 Toyota Corolla. Held up by strings from the ceiling, the fragile auto sat in the middle of the gallery like a big, shy fool in gorilla drag.

Felice took the quintessential L.A. emblems, the car and the freeway, and built a funkadelic world view out of them in drawings, paintings, photographs, and sculptures (the above-mentioned car plus several clay cars in miniature). The years as an assistant to Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen served him well here: he seems to have inherited their voracious approach to painting, their sense of humor, their practice of implicating themselves in their work, and their subtle and overt self-criticality. One difference would be scale. Felice keeps his pictures small (drawings under 12 inches and paintings under 5 feet). When Kippenberger featured a real BMW it reeked of class and power; the theatrics of Felice’s blue-collar prop is paltry and dreamy, more of a sand-castle vibe.

Felice’s images include a human head with the face of a car; a car floating in a toilet; an acrobatic suck ’n’ lick fest, via Matisse-like cutouts on a car hood; a giant fish parked beside a car with lemon slices for wheels (an awesome picture); and his Toyota photographed a dozen times in various places or reflecting off a black limo. Felice casts his car in the lead role of the lonely hero, the freeway as the world, and the landscape as a living organ—writhing like miles of intestines into an infinity of complex scenarios, “Carboy, An Emotional Life.” The auto-myopia is a combination security blanket, best friend/selfportrait, lucky charm, and angel—a graceful anchoring device.

The drawings are incredibly loose, wiggly, and soft. His painting palette is aggressive, garish, confidently out of hand. Every rude color combination is perfectly played out, very much a grotesque, cheerful party. Like the twisting tracks in the animated sequence that opens the TV show Soul Train, Felice’s freeways bend and curve and break off, as if they were circumventing earthquake damage. But these destroyed freeways are like Philip Guston’s doughy Klansmen—damn cute. As ambitious as the show is, there’s an intense humility leaking through the work. Exalted mundanity and extravagant silliness (how else can you read glitter) are two of his many secret weapons. Making mountains out of molehills is an honorable occupation, it’s so often the other way around, the big idea falling face first in the mud. Taking microamusements and jacking them up to the spectacular level of an “Earth, Wind, and Fire” performance is what the common boy and girl need. Exaggeration is one of the true glories of art and life.

Benjamin Weissman