In Joshua Petker's flaming crimson painting "Monster & Cop," a menacing cartoon policeman wielding a fat bludgeon scowls at a tall pile of errant brushstrokes of brightly colored paint. Painting is cast as the title's wayward monster, seemingly without purpose but in need of official monitoring.
Nearby in Petker's exhibition at Ashes/Ashes, a second small painting shows a balding, bearded man wearing a disheveled toga and sprawling casually on the ground. The exiled Greek philosopher Diogenes, who valued action over theory, contemplates another pile of bristling brushstrokes. One wonders what mischief the self-described cynic and cosmopolite has in mind.
Maintaining a Francis Picabia-like disregard for sacrosanct artistic processes, Petker mocks the painting police and extols the disruption of convention. Flower power is a leitmotif, in nine jaunty floral canvases that are more skilled craft-project than yet another media-retread of Warhol's silkscreen flower paintings.
Even the "white cube" of the customary contemporary art gallery gets skeptical regard. Here its style is transformed into a sleek Minimalist pedestal for a pair of painted cats as well as partly dismantled with humdrum, underlying studs exposed.
In Petker's cheeky universe, painting on canvas shrewdly assumes the vaunted character of a sculptural installation.
With about two dozen paintings, the show is titled "Some Hippies and a Hobo." The rebelliously idealistic counterculture (art?) is set against the conventional vision of an itinerant worker (the artist?). In an unusually engaging solo debut, Petker takes on a provocative array of artistic issues with great panache.
Ashes/Ashes, 2404 Wilshire Blvd., through Aug. 28. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.ashesonashes.com