Making fun of others is often amusing. But being able to laugh at yourself is even better. You don’t have to worry about other people’s feelings because yours are sufficiently multilayered: an ambivalent mixture of first impressions, second thoughts and emotional turbulence — spiked by the ability not to take yourself too seriously.
At Perry Rubenstein Gallery, Georg Herold’s new works embody the characteristics of selves who are comfortable in their own skins. In making fun of themselves, his sculptures and paintings leave us free to think for ourselves, playfully and provocatively.
In the main gallery, five stylized figures stretch, sprawl and splay themselves across the floor and walls. Gymnasiums come to mind, filled with lithe athletes tumbling acrobatically.
But close scrutiny suggests suffering, even torture. Swathes of crudely stitched fabric, stretched tautly over scarecrow-style skeletons, recall the aftermath of disasters, both natural and man-made.
To ensure that such weighty evocations don’t get heavy-handed, Herold has painted his larger-than-life-size figures single colors: taxicab yellow, bubble gum pink and brick red, as well as burgundy and violet.
His caviar paintings, measuring more than 12 feet long, appear to be cheeky sendups of gestural abstraction. But they hold up on their own, evoking good taste and decay.
In the next gallery, four seemingly unrelated sculptures tell a story about stage fright, embarrassment and the power of laughter, all of which unfold in a viewer’s imagination. That’s where Herold’s earnest irreverence works its curiously mature magic.
Perry Rubenstein Gallery, 1215 N. Highland Ave., (323) 464-1097, through June 1. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.perryrubenstein.com