Brothers Witkin offer gristly, compelling feast at Jack Rutberg

Artists Jerome and Joel-Peter Witkin give us plenty to chew on in 'Twin Visions'

Psychoanalysts, take note! A feast awaits you in the show, "Twin Visions: Jerome Witkin & Joel-Peter Witkin," at Jack Rutberg.

The rest of us, too, are given plenty to chew on, much of it gristly and pungent. Identical twins (born in 1939), the artists each have long, established careers, Jerome as a painter and Joel-Peter as a photographer. This is the first time their work has been shown together, and it raises the question of biography's relevance to art history.

Both artists gravitate toward the raw edges of human experience, conceiving scenarios that often entail physical or emotional duress. They both favor the theatrical tableau, a frontal format that they then disrupt spatially or temporally through montage. Storytellers both, they circle continually around the themes of death, sensuality and despair.

What might this mean in terms of their upbringing, their twin-ness? The show, wisely, doesn't proffer any theories or force any comparisons. It lays out a separate selection by each artist, reaching back to the '70s in Joel-Peter's case, and the '80s in Jerome's. Joel-Peter's work is the more sensational, incorporating cadavers and a variety of physical oddities in staged scenes, the negatives further manipulated by toning and scratching.

The pictures borrow heavily from the history of painting, including religious iconography, still-life and moralizing genre scenes, but achieve their own disturbing, radical beauty.

Jerome is more of a history painter and observer of modern life, homing in on individuals tortured by demons, real or imagined: crack addicts, Vincent Van Gogh, Holocaust victims. His work, too, invests traditional genres with visceral immediacy. The two are, indeed, brothers to the bone.

Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 357 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 938-5222, through May 31. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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