Sunday, July 19, 2009

lions, and tigers, and alex, oh boy!

-jeffery mcnary

Arriving at the Linda Warren Gallery for the exhibit of Alex O’Neal’s Recent Works, one meets the startling, ‘Modern Day Tarzans’, acrylic & collage on canvas. Here are day-glo greens, yellows, and reds on a burnished rust background. There is a lion, a tiger, a large, long, green snake. There are androgynous figures with large breasts and moustaches with wide open mouths taunting, yelling, sticking out their tongues, pledging and promising more just ahead. It’s an outright eschatological festival.

“My work is formally rooted in several years of abstract painting done in the American Southwest”, Mr. O’Neal shares. “Thematically, the dysfunctional community of Mississippi I moved within in the sixties, early seventies, made a deep impression on me.” Going about the exhibition, dense, dusty reds with vivid blues and yellows and occasional twists of glitter thrust those themes outward. One can feel the heat, smell the hot sauce.

‘Superstars of the Delta’, acrylic and collage on canvas, lays out the humor and irony intended. Here an Elizabeth Taylor ‘Cleopatra’ cut out accompanies another chorus of howling faces, ‘militant hippies’, both crying and laughing with tiny black and white cut outs of celebrities of the period spewing from their mouths. There are plenty of wild animals, dead and alive. There are military chevrons with signage encouraging one to ‘Eat more Possum’, warnings that ‘The art world is not our friend’, noting bars to frequent and advertisement of ‘Dirt for Sale.’ The theme is uninterrupted in his ‘Superheroes of the Delta’, an oil pastel on paper, a similar work, as well as in the other twenty one pieces comprising the exhibit.

The vague sharpens in Mr. O’Neal’s ‘Pop Art-izing’. Although inspired by works of Swiss painter, Corbaz, this exhibition finds the artist fast forwarding Bruegle into the 21st century, downshifting and throwing on the brakes in a time before ‘awesome’ and ‘whatever’. The show chastises, mocks, curses, threatens. It is a protestant ‘de profoundis’, which follows you around the room and out of the door and down the street for a long, long time.

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