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La Cienega Area

Ushio Shinohara’s raucous paintings and sculptures need about three times as much space as they have been allotted, and even then it might not be possible to sort out the chaos. There seems to be an irreverent wit at work here--one who throws a kimono-clad woman on a speeding motorcycle and has a rabbit serve a margarita to a Japanese princess--but the effect is rather like Mad magazine stirred up in a blender.

Shinohara, who was trained in Japan and has lived in New York since 1969, is well known in his homeland for founding a Japanese Neo-Dada movement and helping to free his fellow artists from stifling tradition. He has traveled widely and dipped into various aspects of American contemporary art. In his current exhibition, he presents himself as a sort of Japanese Red Grooms who hasn’t figured out that it takes disciplined editing to portray complex subject matter, no matter how lurid, grotesque or hilarious. More value contrast in his sizzling palette might help. A machete would probably be more effective.

A few drawings in the back gallery--some of them studies for larger projects--suggest that Shinohara starts with manageable ideas but loses them as he piles shape upon shape or wedges them into an exploding vortex. His mosaic-covered sculptures of vulgar motorcycle riders are relatively easy to read, but the paintings are a disaster. Too bad, as there is room for another trenchant commentator on the homogenization of culture and the calamities of Japan’s westernization. (Herbert Palmer Gallery, 802 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Oct. 15.).


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