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Review

Sporadic humor by Bruce Richards, provocateur

Bruce Richards' humorous observations take form at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

I like an art world in-joke as much as the next aesthete, and Bruce Richards’ brand of humor is more accessible and irreverent than most.

The New York artist with roots in the SoCal art scene of the 1970s has stuck to a resolutely representational, often surreal strategy that deflates the grandeur of art history and, somewhat less successfully, history itself.

Paintings and sculptures dating mostly from the last decade but going back to the 1980s comprise a large, if uneven exhibition at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts.

Particularly funny are paintings like “Darwinian Theory” from 2007, which simply juxtaposes the Venus of Willendorf — a voluptuous prehistoric statuette — with a voluptuous Jeff Koons balloon dog.

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I also enjoyed the casts and paintings of the modesty fig leaf installed on a cast of Michelangelo’s David when Queen Victoria received it as a gift. The leaf is both prudish and slyly suggestive.

Less intriguing are somewhat heavy-handed works dealing with American history and culture. A painting of a homey sign that reads “Love thy neighbor” but is riddled with faux bullet holes feels obvious and rather flat. Similarly, “World Map,” an image juxtaposing “primitive” flying arrows with “cultured” calligraphy is too simplistic.

However, “In Praise of Folly,” a wooden case containing a colorful collection of bronze rabbit’s-foot key chains, captures perfectly what feels like a particularly American quality of gruesome hope.

Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 357 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 938-5222, through Nov. 29. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.jackrutbergfinearts.com

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