A small, misshapen relic of a human, "Pompeii Baby" squeezes the elemental affinity between human and earthly clay for all that it's worth.
The sculpture, by Mitsuko Ikeno, reads as a concise tragedy. The truncated form is armless, its legs mere stumps. Its large, unduly heavy head tilts to one side, the face defined by a single peering eye and a pleading hole for a mouth. The figure's skin is a parched ash crust.
Ikeno is paired with Kim Tucker in the complicated, rich, variably delectable and discomfiting show, "Beautiful Ugly Things," at Garboushian. Both L.A.-based artists work in clay, reimagining the human figure and other vaguely animate forms. Wonderfully dense with emotion, the show's three-dozen wall and table-top sculptures skitter between sweetness and sorrow, sex and the scatological.
Tucker's work is darkly whimsical, kin to Klara Kristalova's in its blend of psychological realism and the physically surreal. Body parts are displaced and multiplied. Breasts smile and flowers sprout across a torso like so many upbeat growths.
She reinforces a sense of childlike innocence with her palette of soft primary glazes, then undermines it by sheathing a head here or a midsection there in black, fur-like strokes. These pieces read like fairy-tale snippets, odd, grotesque and yet insistently cheerful.
Ikeno's work has a shadowy sense of humor too, but also a strong current of grief. Like eloquent artifacts -- burnt, cracked and fragmented -- her figures seem to bear the injuries of history.
Garboushian Gallery, 427 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-5205, through Aug. 29. Closed Saturday and Sunday. www.garboushian.com