Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fun stuff

Mike Capp’s surrealistic imagery at mineral
Published in the Weekly Volcano, March 4, 2010

I wonder what it’s all about? No, that’s not a question; that’s the name of the Mike Capp exhibit at mineral. I’ve been told there’s a happening art community in Everett that includes Capp, who does knockoffs of Juan Miro and Wifredo Lam combined with a personal iconography that includes mutant Mickey Mouses and frightening Ronald McDonalds. His paintings “don't really mean anything dangerous, angst-y or irksome. There's no mewling social commentary,” he says. Nor are they “meant to provoke the unarticulated terrors of childhood. They're just drawings of monsters, superheroes and robots,” often inspired by his young children.

There’s an inconsistency to Capp’s work that I hope will work itself out before long. Some of his paintings are very precise renderings of pop and surrealistic images, while others — still with the same kind of imagery — are more painterly, sketchy and imprecise. Longtime readers of this column know that I’m partial to sloppy and energetic gesture painting, but in Capp’s paintings the more careful and precise works are much better.

The weakest painting in the show is one called "Superman." White contour drawings of figures are layered over more solidly painted abstract figures, which are, in turn, layered over a landscape-y abstract background. All that layering doesn’t help, and neither does the crude drawing style.

The strongest painting in the show is one called "Improvisation ’03," which is a very elaborate montage of figures including a blue man, a blue Madonna and child, a headless woman and a floating nude done with a sensitive contour line that changes from black to white. The drawing is skillful and the interweaving of figure and background is much better than the layering of images in some of his other works. Even though this painting is illustrational, which I usually don’t like, it is a very good painting.

There are also a couple of paintings in black, white and gray that consist of figures borrowed from Miro, but with cartoon faces, laid over a background borrowed from Jackson Pollock. I saw photos of these before I saw the painting, and I thought there was too much separation of figure and ground, but the actual painting doesn’t have that problem.

Also very nice are three tiny portraits of 1) Superman, 2) the Mad Hatter and 3) a scary Ronald McDonald titled "He’s Watching You", and a lovely little painting of fruit, a rubber ducky and the word “Kiss” rendered like the band’s logo but printed backwards.

It’s a small show in a small gallery, which also features some great jewelry by gallery owner Lisa Konoshita. It’s definitely worth stopping in.

[mineral, noon-5 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (hours may vary, so call first), through April 10, 301 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.250.7745,]

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