Galleries offer eccentric works this season

Even when it’s not an Art Walk night, L.A. art galleries are playgrounds worth exploring.

The art scene is ever changing, but quite a few galleries are leaning toward the fun and fantastical. For these galleries, art doesn’t need to be so serious.

Modern makeover · Crewest Gallery’s Blow Up L.A. plays with toys as various artists create avant-garde dolls with bombs as heads. - Photo courtesy of Luna George

For starters, how about art with robots and donuts? Eric Joyner’s “It’s a Jungle Out There,” featuring guest artist Pure Evil, is available for viewing at the Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City until Feb. 8.

Pure Evil’s spray-paint-on-canvas works feature close-ups of faces with paint dripping from their eyes, and Joyner’s oil-on-panel creations are unabashedly whimsical. In “Tiger Mountain,” for instance, robots are depicted walking alongside an elephant carrying a load of three giant donuts.

In “All Wrapped Up,” a red robot holds a donut in one hand while battling a snake coiled around it with its free hand. Every painting has intriguing details that show Joyner’s knack for keeping his art interesting and elusive.

“I kind of keep things a little complex, so if you’re looking at something and you think possibly it could have two or three different meanings, I think that’s good,” Joyner said. “Some people think it’s funny, and some people think it’s sad. I think it’s more subtle — you’re not hit over the head with it.”

Beyond the aesthetic complexities, Joyner’s style contains a playful nature, especially through the incorporation of donuts.

“It could be because my mom tried to bribe me to go to Sunday school with donuts, or it could be that I just like them and it’s an interesting shape, the circle,” Joyner said.

But Joyner also remembers a more specific moment. His paintings started out with robots based on Japanese tin toys from the ’50s and ’60s until he saw a scene in the film Pleasantville that inspired him to add the donuts.

The taste for the whimsical continues at Thinkspace Art Gallery on Washington Boulevard. On Saturday, Liz Brizzi and Ana Bagayan will present their fascinating work. The latter’s exhibition title, There is Time to Kill Today, is already enough indication that this won’t be an ordinary art show.

Bagayan’s subjects are humans with big eyes and dead looks that give them a disturbing demeanor, no matter the setting. Other subjects of Bagayan’s works are based on people under hypnosis who believe they have been abducted by aliens.

Liz Brizzi’s New Works show stays a little closer to reality. Her pieces take inspiration from urban scenes. This city setting is especially enhanced by a gritty, almost ephemeral quality because of the use of mixed media.

Together, the artist’s tastes create a show that puts together two different aesthetics unified by the artists’ penchant for giving normal images their own twists.

The explosion of creativity continues at Crewest Gallery, which will present its new show Blow Up L.A.: The Art of Blowing Up Your City on Feb. 4 on Winston Street. The show centers on a variety of artists tackling the same canvas — vinyl toy dolls. The dolls are custom made by a company called Jamungo, which will bring its dolls called BUDs and NADEs.

But the dolls aren’t your typical kids’ toys. The BUDs’ heads are in the shapes of bombs, and the NADEs’ heads resemble grenades — hence the name of the exhibition. Crewest is just another stop on the route of Aerosol Warfare’s Blow Up (Your City!) traveling exhibition, which will feature artists Pyro, Bezerk ONE and Justin Garcia. Owner of Aerosol Warfare and curator of the Crewest Show, GONZO247 adds that it was initially challenging to work with so many artists, but that it ultimately creates an intriguing, diverse show.

“We have a wide variety of styles of art on the dolls so I think what the viewer will see is how many different directions the shape can take,” GONZO247 said. “We have some urban artists but also people that work with oils and do fine art, and then people who do crazy design work. So it’s what the artist does best — with an urban edge.”

Vinyl doll decorating isn’t new; there are other similar figures out there for artists.

“There are a lot of designers and creative people starting to design toys that aren’t like your average Barbie doll but have more of an urban feel,” GONZO247 said.

Accordingly, galleries are offering plenty of exciting shows this season. The beauty of the current art scene lies in the fact that on any given gallery row, you never quite know what you’ll stumble upon.