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LA CIENEGA AREA

The apartment is empty but its furnishings suggest the occupants are out protesting the demolition of a ‘50s coffee shop. That’s the ambiance exuded by Kim MacConnel’s new art. It is a combination of paintings that look roughly like bad Chagall grafted to bad Dufy and ‘50s furniture recreated to look even funnier than it did the first time.

MacConnel plays up the Dumb Blonde optimism of the style by cutting holes in amoeba-form coffee tables and painting bucket chairs with kid-art flowers and patterns. He even exposes one piece of archeological embarrassment by reminding us that there really was a fashion for orange and chartreuse, which is the visual equivalent of eating Wheaties and fruit at every meal. No wonder kids like the tail-fin era; it had a cheerful energy entirely missing from Punky styles.

This show is partly about smart, young hopefuls in every generation but--nostalgia notwithstanding--MacConnel’s work has been updated to suggest furnished digs occupied by a particularly contemporary couple of indeterminate gender whose greatest attainment is a trivia-master’s grasp of culture and whose most extreme passion is ironical amusement.

Some paintings are framed in Akron Baroque; most have montage formats that natter from Classic to Kitsch and back while making quips about contemporaries like Jon Borofsky and David Salle in a conversation that lasts four seconds. MacConnel is adept at making art exist almost entirely outside itself, broadcasting an authentic sensibility while possessing almost no substance. It has a lazy, extroverted generosity and surfer’s charm that suggests that Kim MacConnel is what we would get if Zonker Harris took up art. (James Corcoran Gallery, 8223 Santa Monica Blvd., to March 22.)

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