ART REVIEW: Life off the streets

The interesting thing about the Wax Poetic Gallery is that you don’t expect to find an artist, a good artist at that, displayed on their walls. But there he is — the quasi-surrealist, Ronald Llanos. Of course you will first have to pass the regenerative energy bar on your left, and the hair salon on your right. Not to worry: Every step is worth it.

This is the first single art installation by the socially aware Llanos, who greatly appreciates the quote of the Dada movement artist Max Ernst, “There is art about art and art about life.” And Llanos delivers on that quote with his genuinely engaging and playful works, which are relatively small given his amount of talent.

Each piece tells a story of Los Angeles seen through younger eyes, and all with movement. Those movements include his scenes like “Pussy Cats at Borders” and “Musicians at Jax” jazz bar in Glendale. Not only does Llanos know his way around every landmark that native Angelenos hold close to their hearts, he makes you love them more with his vibrant work, especially his piece “Paseo Colorado” in Pasadena.

“I’m interested in the people and places of Los Angeles. The urban realities around me hold plenty for me to be inspired by,” Llanos said in a news release. “I have been focusing on the urban street life in Pasadena and Los Angeles. Pasadena, being my hometown, and Los Angeles being an endless source of inspiration,” he said.

The ephemeral subject that Llanos likes to portray requires a quickness to producing his work, hence his great affection for the use of watercolor and ink as his media of choice. Pegged as a realist based on his style, Llanos implores elements of surrealism and escapism through his sometimes humorous twist to a given subject.

“I think escapism, even in artists that are labeled ‘realists,’ is an important facet in the work of any artist. All artists do this in one way or another,” he said. “Some are more direct and some not.”

Llanos has taken inspiration through appreciation of other noted artists including Honore’ Daumier and John Sloan. Both of these artists had documented the interaction of individuals according to the current time period. In his own work, Llanos not only takes aim, but hits the bull’s-eye, which is no doubt another reason why he educates through lecture and forums at prestigious institutes of art around Los Angeles including the Pasadena Arts Center, Brentwood Art Center and the Art Center College of Design.

Since childhood, Llanos has utilized his adept skills of social observance to create drawings that are beyond anything outsiders might attempt in showing a side of Los Angeles with a heartbeat.

He understands his city, but what’s more is that he clearly loves his city.

Llanos’ exhibit at Wax Poetic may be small, but how often do you walk out of a gallery with a smile on your face because the work actually made you feel good about your city? Exactly.

 MICHAEL BOLGER is a freelance arts writer, most recently working for the San Diego Community News Group covering the La Jolla Contemporary Museum of Art, La Jolla Playhouse and San Diego Music Center.

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