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The ghost of Goya rises in L.A.'s Chinatown

The ghost of Goya rises in L.A.'s Chinatown
Irene Iré and Manuel Ocampo's “A Monument to the Failed Liberation of the World, Part 5,” detail (full image below). (Irene Iré and Manuel Ocampo / Coagula Curatorial)

At Coagula Curatorial, Manuel Ocampo and Irene Iré combine their talents in an exhibition that feels like a three-artist show. That’s no mean feat, especially when the third artist is Goya.

Although none of the works by the Spanish Romantic are in “Monument to the Pathetic Sublime: Resuscitating Goya or an All-Out Attempt at Transcendence,” his presence is palpable.

Each of Iré’s six paintings is a hallucinatory stew that takes your eyes on a wild ride through the past before spitting you out in the present. Expressionist gestures and graphite scribbles can be seen beneath layers of fluorescent paint, which themselves have been partly covered with blot-it-out brushwork.

Irene Iré's “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," 2017, 63 inches by 51 inches, mixed media.
Irene Iré's “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," 2017, 63 inches by 51 inches, mixed media. (Irene Iré / Coagula Curatorial)

As your eyes adjust to the pyrotechnics, figures lifted from Goya’s “Los Caprichos” burble up. Larger and less meticulously rendered than they are in Goya’ original aquatints and etchings, Iré’s winged monsters, fanged beasts and demons seem to be memories with minds of their own — and the power to never let you forget it.

Ocampo takes different liberties with Goya’s figures. First, he extracts them from the nightmarish netherworld so efficiently evoked by finely etched lines. Then he slams them into a space that resembles a demented coloring book. And he adds his own characters: a cartoon flamingo, a jack-o-lantern and a mouthless man whose face is eggplant purple.

Manuel Ocampo's “They Spruce Themselves Up,” 2017, oil on canvas, 64 inches by 51 inches
Manuel Ocampo's “They Spruce Themselves Up,” 2017, oil on canvas, 64 inches by 51 inches (Manuel Ocampo / Coagula Curatorial)

Meaty and sweaty, yet foolish and goofy, Ocampo’s comical monsters inhabit a reality that is not all that different from the real thing. Think Philip Guston meets Donald Duck by way of R. Crumb.

Three paintings, on which Iré and Ocampo have collaborated, are even stranger. The artists’ strengths are intensified because they generate friction.

Goya, like many artists, had a problem with authority. He did not get on especially well with others. But this exhibition suggests that if he were still with us, he’d like Iré and Ocampo, whose own irreverence for all forms of authority — including artistic — match his disdain for every sort of superiority.

Coagula Curatorial, 974 Chung King Road, L.A. Through May 21; closed Mondays and Tuesdays. (323) 480-7852, www.coagulacuratorial.com

Irene Iré and Manuel Ocampo's “A Monument to the Failed Liberation of the World, Part 5,” 2017, 64 inches by 51 inches.
Irene Iré and Manuel Ocampo's “A Monument to the Failed Liberation of the World, Part 5,” 2017, 64 inches by 51 inches. (Irene Iré and Manuel Ocampo / Coagula Curatorial)

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