Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bahama Kangaroo, Jamie Solock, Hunter Thompson and Ryn Wilson at the Front

It is often said that no one really knows what to expect from the St. Claude Arts District galleries. If traditional art galleries typically have to work within the constraints that affect other small businesses, St. Claude's co-op spaces seem more likely to reflect the collective whimsies of the artists who own and operate them. Volunteer labor and lower rents allow for experimental and diverse programming, which gets multiplied at The Front, where four separate but connected rooms ups the odds for encountering the unexpected. Two Japanese artists currently command the first room. Yukako Ezoe grew up in America and Japan, and her mixed media concoctions, influenced by comic art and Hispanic murals, sometimes suggest the sacred ritual objects of a tribe of Latino punk voodooists. Naoki Onodera blends comic art influences into flat, slinky figures painted as if navigating a geometric universe, and together their visual quirks are collaboratively blended into their inexplicably coherent Bahama Kangaroo series (eg Punks Never Die, left). Asian connections also appear in the next room, where a virtual video collaboration between the Front's member artists and the Tokyo Art Lab is under way.

In the third room, a show called Thirds features work by Lindsay Preston Zappas whose flat, yet deliriously discombobulated, color marker paintings on paper (see Parrots and Cheetahs, below) suggest what out of body experiences at a zoo might be like. Jamie Solock's stop-sign shaped graphic sculptures are also deviously challenging for their intimation of nihilist mind control experiments, and recent transplant Hunter Thompson's neo-Fauve oil paintings (Untitled, above) hint at the curious shifts in perspective that ensue when a digital artist goes retro. Meanwhile in Room Four, Ryn Wilson's eerie color photos recall 1970s experimental cinema forays into femme-centric film noir in works like Kiss of Death, (top). Spanning odd corners of time and space, The Front's current offerings are united mainly by their diversity and unpredictability. ~Bookhardt         
 Bahama Kangaroo: Mixed media by Yukako Ezoe and Naoki Onodera, Thirds: Mixed Media by Hunter Thompson, Lindsay Preston Zappas and Jamie Solock, FATHOM (MCMLXXVI): Photography by Ryn Wilson, Through June 8, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 301-8654.