Raven Servellon's 'Velvet Sunflower' is a trippy art party

Raven Servellon wants to pummel you with color and detail.

The L.A. artist’s psychedelic, fem-pop ink drawings are dense with swirly, girlie optical illusions – “optrickal delusions,” she calls them. Stare into a garden of flaming roses long enough and tall, willowy cats, standing upright as if on stilts, emerge – and they’re wearing butterfly masks. A sea of multi-colored, roiling balls opens up to reveal dancing female figures, their arms of fire swaying in the air.     

“They’re fun, they play with color and perception,” Servellon says. “I know what I see, but I can’t tell what someone else is going to see when they look at them.”

Seventeen of Servellon’s works debut in her solo exhibition, “Velvet Sunflower,” at Chinatown’s Coagula Curatorial on Saturday – it’s one of six art openings along Chung King Road that weekend. Working with handmade cutouts, the self-taught artist stencils intricate images with vibrant markers on watercolor paper. Each piece is “a drawing on top of a drawing on top of a drawing,” as if Servellon had created separate art works on translucent Vellum paper and layered them one on top of another.

Like much in the Op Art genre, which Servellon considers herself a part of, some layers of imagery play with angular lines and shapes, creating dense patterns and playful optical effects. Other layers are more illustrative. A witch, a hippie chick, a sci-fi geek and a punk rocker appear in one image against a backdrop of electric sunflowers; lounging, glam-rock feline-ladies populate others. The result is dizzying and kaleidoscopic, almost collage-like, and the works have a decided Japanese feel that at times resemble woodblock prints.

“It’s kind of like déjà vu,” she says of the feeling her works evoke. “You have your physical worlds, like the cat people in a room, and underneath and in between them is this other world, the patterns, giving this overlapping memory or impression that you’ve been here before.”

Servellon, who grew up in New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago in her early 20s. She’d been into art as a young child, but had given it up, she says. The move to L.A., where she initially worked at the Silver Lake bookstore-gift shop Soap Plant & Wacko, reignited her passion for drawing. She was inspired by the colorful works of Shag, whose books the store carries, and she fell in love with Yayoi Kusama’s light installation at the Broad museum.

Which explains her Peter Max-meets-Lisa-Frank aesthetic. Servellon’s drawings are brimming with bright and twinkle-y, girlie iconography – hearts and flowers and stars and butterflies -- but they turn any diminutive assumptions on their head. Her happy-go-lucky works are fierce, screaming with bold color and confidence; they’re about nothing if not female empowerment. 

“Some artists are self conscious about the girlie stuff, but I’m not,” Servellon says. “I find it fun and outgoing. And when you go in, and look close, there’s a lot of stuff going on.”

Chinatown, with so many concurrent gallery openings Saturday night, will undoubtedly be bright with local color, foot traffic and live music; but the art party inside Coagula Curatorial will be especially trippy.

Servellon points to one of her works, “The Garden Party,” which conjures a buzzing, hissing, rainbow-hued beehive in which those towering cat ladies sport Mardi Gras masks. 

“This one’s more overtly inspired by New Orleans,” Servellon says. “It’s festive, it’s playful. And you’re not sure what, exactly, you’re looking at. It looks like a party I’d like to go to!”

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @DebVankin

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