Sunday, July 1, 2012

Man, Myth, Monsters and Messersmith + Kleinbard

The allure of myths and monsters is eternal. Their presence in folklore and fairytales may have even helped people mentally prepare for wars, plagues and storms through the ages. This LeMieux expo is an inventive survey of things monstrous transposed from the artistic imagination. For instance, in Carrie Ann Baade's Three Headed Tiger Cursing Heaven painting, a Bengal tiger in Elizabethan attire impersonates a Himalayan deity that somehow seems plausible in spite of itself. More inviting and good humored is Theresa Honeywell's Jackalope Girl tapestry featuring a busty cowgirl astride the giant antlered jackrabbit of prairie folklore, but Juan Carlos Quintina's Nurturing the Republic is Key to a Healthy Economy—a painting of a wild eyed rabbit playing physician to a bedridden rag doll--is the stuff of childhood nightmares. Elizabeth Chen's Rorschach, Mirror, Shark--a shark-shaped hanging mobile made of mirror-finished metal segments--suggests a menacing space age leviathan, lending a high tech aura to this entertaining and sometimes thought provoking curiosity cabinet of a show.  

 Prismatic colors and high drama reign supreme at the Ogden Museum. Here Mark Messersmith's florid, manic, swamp fantasies hold sway in paintings where city streets are besieged by giant gators and tropical beasts along with raging trucks under skies thick with exotic birds and the dark angels of ancient mythology. Carved wooden filigree and other protruding details can  make his zany mix of naturalism and kitsch seem to leap out at you. But if Messersmith's vividly hued fever dreams cause you to reach for the Xanax, sanctuary can be found nearby in Alexa Kleinbard's latter day naturalist fantasies, canvases in which depictions of wild herbs in their native habitat frame idyllic visions of natural landscapes like rococo paintings within paintings. The text panels are also helpful, providing lots of useful information explaining which herbs can replace all those expensive prescriptions in your medicine cabinet. ~Bookhardt

Man, Myth, Monster: Group Exhibition of Fantastical Beasts, Through June 28, LeMieux Galleries, 332 Julia St., 522.5988; Maximalist and Naturalist: Paintings by Mark Messersmith, Remedies: Oil Paintings by Alexa Kleinbard, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600 (Pictured: Night Blooming Cereus by Alexa Kleinbard.)