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Wilshire Center

The paintings of Bobby Ross are still distinguished by meticulous detail, by magic and photographic realism crafted with dexterous precision. He still speaks of the destruction of society by the benign course of fate and by more malevolent forces of violence, war, greed and a Faustian lust for knowledge that propels the technocrat and the painter alike.

Previous works--in which the word God covered images of Santa Claus, a Rastafarian and a hooded terrorist to convey the Hindu idea that the divine resides everywhere--seemed symbolically over-obvious. Most of the works on view are less so and the better for it.

Ross packs every centimeter with spectacular visual and symbolic information. “Jihad” features the predominant frontal view of the artist, staring out bearded and blank-faced like a prophet. A lovable cartoon Goofy in a cardboard house tries desperately to put out a fire while perfectly drawn hands enter the picture to control him with Pinocchio strings. To the left is a closet full of hideous little jeering demons.

If Ross is true to form, there is an elaborate system of personal and political edicts here, but what we come away with is a palpable sense of dangerous entropy, something we can observe, even understand but never quite control. Ross paints himself painting next to a decaying concrete wall that holds a half-eaten fast food burger and carries our eye to a trash bin full of soap boxes and other ecologically guilty debris. If you lean very close, you find that Ross depicts himself just finishing a minuscule Life Saver set adrift in the water, as if to say that the truth is the only dim hope for saving a gluttonous, disposable planet from itself. (Ovsey Gallery, 126 N. La Brea Ave., to April 15.)

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