Dutch artist Anthony Ausgang hasn’t figured out exactly what he wants to say in his work, but he seems to be having a good time sorting through the possibilities; his pictures bristle with a yelping zest that suggests he takes pleasure in the physical act of painting.
A Post-Modern Pop artist fed on pulp novels, Raw Magazine and classic American animation (Krazy Kat in particular), Ausgang has the color sense of a tattoo artist and could be classified a cartoonist but for the fact that he works on a large scale. One of two massive spray-painted murals included in this, his first local solo show, depicts red musical notes and white keys exploding from a pumping barrelhouse piano. Beautifully painted though it is, the piece lacks content and comes off as little more than a flashy style job. A third mural on view a few blocks away on an exterior wall at LACE was done more recently and finds Ausgang moving in a positive direction. The composition is less chaotic, more lucid and resolved. We see a workman digging a grave for three dead mice; next to the digger crouches a hungry-looking cat whose tail wags like a dinner bell.
Ausgang manipulates a spray can better than he handles a brush, and his oil-on-canvas paintings are more problematic. He tends to load his paintings with incongruous elements that seem heavy-handed. Ausgang needs to examine his vocabulary of recurring symbols and clarify precisely what they mean to him. Nonetheless, even when straining for surrealistic dazzle, Ausgang’s paintings are infused with a good-natured ease that’s quite charming. It’ll be nice if he manages to hang on to that as he irons out the philosophical glitches. (Cheap Racist Gallery, 2140 East 7th Place, to Thursday.)