Like Georganne Dean and Gary Panter, L.A. artist Hudson Marquez converts the cartoonist's aesthetic into fine art. Though Marquez's main claim to fame thus far is "The Cadillac Ranch," an environmental sculpture in Amarillo, Tex., that he helped create as one of four members of the now-defunct conceptual art team Ant Farm, Marquez has been painting for many years. This new body of work signals no major shift in direction, which is to say these are very funny pictures indeed.
Painting with a good-natured randiness evocative of underground comic genius R. Crumb, Marquez appropriates images and ideas from pop culture that he finds either admirable, humorous or just plain peculiar, and pairs them with a droll punch line that casts an altogether new light on them. "Five People With Hair Weirder Than Jerry Lewis," for instance, is a hilarious piece of group portraiture starring Don King. Other works illustrate surreal ideas and inventions: human beings with Buick-style air vents surgically implanted into their backsides, UFOs in the shape of giant spike-heeled shoes, Aunt Jemima and Mr. T admiring a Warhol soup can painting in a pristine art gallery. A wonderfully subtle comment on racism, Marquez's treatment of Aunt Jemima and Mr. T suggests he has the makings of a first-rate political cartoonist.
Also on view are paintings by Mary Woronov that explore the dark, sometimes frightening underbelly of sexuality. Working on unstretched canvas tacked to the wall, Woronov creates enigmatic scenarios which, in their sensuality and undercurrent of violence, bring Eric Fischl to mind. In "Birthday Party Numbers 1 & 2," a child's birthday celebration degenerates into a brawl between a man and a woman, while "Suburban Pieta" depicts a woman with a young man who appears to be unconscious, cradled in her lap. A particularly frenzied work titled "They Took George Out Into the Woods and Tortured Him for Several Hours" conveys the jittery thrill some people find in inflicting pain--often in the name of love. (Abstraction Gallery, 443 S. San Pedro, to July 3.)