Santa Monica


Brian O’Connor charges after the bland, cheap side of contemporary life in honest and probing--if sometimes overly anecdotal--figurative paintings. Deborah Baca applies her pristine watercolor technique to an idea that’s basically no more than a gimmick.

In “Hilarious,” O’Connor rounds up a fat man whose body turns into a cone, a gesturing, half-dressed businessman and a slouching pinhead in a leather jacket. All cohabit a box-like space shared with a nude sculpture. Whatever the joke they’re reacting to, there’s little doubt it’s in poor taste.

The strongest work of the group--because it lets simple but allusive imagery work unhampered on the imagination--is “Give Me the Simple Life.” It tacitly compares a ghostly copy of a court dwarf Velasquez immortalized in one of his paintings with the image of a middle-aged businessman making an ineffectual gesture and literally disappearing into the grayness of his house.


Baca paints delicate, detailed still lifes rife with obvious allusions to popular artists (Michelangelo, Georgia O’Keeffe) and other well-known folk. In “Marilyn,” for example, the viewer finds a baseball on the floor (Joe DiMaggio!), a news clipping about the Kennedys (the liaison!), a catalogue from a 1963 Christie’s auction featuring the famous Andy Warhol silk screen and other items fit for a trivia game.

Such works pander to a People magazine mentality satisfied with cute “conversation pieces” instead of art that demands real effort and awareness from the viewer. (Andrea Ross Gallery, 2110 Broadway, to Nov. 25)