Laura Krifka’s dramatic figurative works at CB1 Gallery hark back to neoclassical painting, both in style and subject matter, but with a decidedly postmodern angle.
Her strange, darkly mysterious paintings place men and women in various states of undress among surreal natural environments and suggestions of violence and debauchery. Fruit and sharp objects (knives, arrows, needles) figure prominently, and all the metaphors are sexual, perhaps too obviously so.
Still, there is something wry about Krifka’s work, an attitude that refuses to take itself too seriously. There is an unexpected ferociousness to the skillfully painted scenes, but there’s also a deadpan quality that belies the lofty references to mythology and art history. It’s the way a woman perched on a limb snarls like a vampire at the viewer, or the subtle smirk on a male archer’s face as he pulls an arrow from his quiver.
Not all of Krifka’s paintings or odd, lumpy little sculptures convey this creepy irreverence, but it comes across most clearly in a stop-motion animated video that follows the adventures of a pioneer family.
As they navigate a landscape laden with flowers, fruit and sudden acts of violence, we grasp the conjoined beauty and terror of nature, and we might chuckle a little, uncomfortably.
CB1 Gallery, 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave., (213) 806-7889, through Feb. 28. Closed Sunday through Tuesday. www.cb1gallery.com