In the nightmare of Ed Nunnery’s paintings, the world is a black hole of rotting buildings strewn with bodies smelling of dead fish and suspicion. The police provide the comic relief in bright orange uniforms with funny hats and jackets emblazoned with “this side up” arrows to keep them righteous.
This is black comedy at its most disturbing, not only because it portrays city life as a series of violent acts but because, in unexpected touches like the soulful eyes of a dog watching for a tidbit from the edge of a dinner plate, we recognize the denizen’s wretchedness.
Each work is a densely packed montage of images surrounded by a black, sawtoothed frame. Images of pistol-packing drivers careening off overpasses seem tied to actual events like the freeway shootings. Others seem more dreamlike, such as the dead artist outside the gate of a burning city guarded by a faceless, empty-coated symbol of political power. There is a tightly congested energy to this piecemeal imagery, but the impact is mercifully blunted by bits of sitcom silliness. The “Stickmen” characters have a cartoon quality of nastiness that allows them to stand in for all the oppressors of body and mind, from landlords to television.
“Evening Rain” is a rare, totally serious, single-image painting that speaks clearly of Nunnery’s growing strength as a narrative painter of urban Angst . (Ovsey Gallery, 126 N. La Brea Ave., to Nov. 12.)