Shag Me, Baby

I’m still getting used to the LA lifestyle. Lord knows I sure as hell spend my waking hours like any other workaholic.

My bro was in town this weekend for a grad school interview, so his usual jaunts on the town weren’t part of the agenda. We took him out for some classy grinds and coffee shops where he could ponder how he’d answer questions such as, “What would you contribute to the field of physical therapy?” and “Describe three weaknesses about yourself.” I, of course, used this time to read literature for both work (2 books), fashion (1 book, 1 magazine) and crafts (1 magazine). I’m tellin’ you. Wor-ka-ho-lic.

On Saturday, the Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City was holding a reception to open a series of installations titled “Autumn’s Come Undone” by Shag (Josh Agle). I figured an art show would be just the right balance of social stimulation and laid-back entertaining. So we grabbed a bite from Du Par’s at the Grove and caught the last hour of the reception.

Now I made that remark about getting used to LA lifestyle cuz my exhausted ass was decked out in my trusty old black parka, red sweats, Ugg wannabes and dark-rimmed Michael Kors. When I want to be comfortable, I mean it. As we cruised past the gallery to look for parking, we caught sight of the bouncers perched at attention near the entrance, the stark white walls with pops of color protruding from large glicees hanging from the ceiling, stilettos punctuating the haughty strolls of blonde, female prototypes and a tiny polyp of insecurity began budding into dread as we walked closer to the building. I was sure the bouncers were gonna laugh my ass right back out to the car before my Ugg wannabes even set foot ontop of the red carpet. That’s right. A fucking red carpet.

“Come on in!” they crowed. “Don’t be shy!”

So now I was feeling retarded for a different reason.

Anyway, we made it into the gallery where people were using their camera phones to take pictures of pretty captivating canvas boards depicting what appeared to be scenes. For a good while, I was just walking around soaking in this new environment. Small groups of people were standing several feet infront of each painting, talking animatedly to one another about what this aspect of the painting meant or what that aspect meant. A bar was tucked away into a separate room and patrons milled all around the room with clear plastic cups graced by the familiar gleam of sparkling wine. My old-ass tried to dodge the loud speakers placed precariously at the top of the stairs of the loft. A tall white girl with pink hair, pale skin and a blue leopard print wiggle dress laughed out loud. It wasn’t only until my brother snatched up a piece of paper that listed the names of the paintings that I began to hone in on the actual art.

We were especially focused on this triptych that, if you look carefully, was a panoramic view of three different scenes. You can click on each image for a closer look.

This one is called “Black and Dreamless.”

According to Shag’s website, he refrains from interpreting his own work, preferring the audience to arrive at their own interpretations. In looking at his other paintings, I wondered what particular world event was taking place at the time he was working on them or when they were released because I interpreted the majority of the current installation as commentaries on the government.
Some of the adults sleeping (passed out?) on the beds have ominous black cones hovering above them with what look like sound waves curling surreptitiously around the unsuspecting bodies. (I later learned that these “sound waves” were referred to as vapors in other paintings.) To me, these images were nothing more than the Bush administration brainwashing US citizens into believing their crap (the same could be said for the blindfolded woman). It’s significant that the people sleeping seem to be adults. The young boy being lifted into the air by a balloon and the male tween (see the Converse?) below aiming a mirror in his direction represent the younger generation who are trying to uncover, capture (via the boy’s camera) or reflect back to the world (via that tween’s mirror) government conspiracy.
This second part of the triptych is titled “Black Balloon.” According to this painting, the Bush administration has come out on top. Men and women dressed in swanky clothing and toting black balloons in their victory flank the riverbank. The American army (disguised by a giant rhinoceros crica the Trojan war) topped off by armed men spreads fear in Iraq. People frantically try to climb up the socioeconomic ladder via oil strands. Everyone appears depressed anf forlorn save for the gentleman in the striped topcoat tipping his hat to the man inflating his ego (black balloon).
The rollercoaster of economic growth plummets into a hole in the ground. My brother interpreted the third painting of the triptych, “Fitful Troubled,” to indicate that the country will be struggling to clean up its own mess.
Here is a diptych depicting mother nature’s response to irresponsible inhabitants.
“Marooned.” The title says it all. While we viciously pillage the earth’s natural resources (skeleton masekd men throwing nets into the ocean), we enjoy the finer things in life, completely oblivious to the damage we’re wreaking upon the planet (couple enjoying a romp in the blimp). Meanwhile, technological advances (man controlling puppet chickens) allow us to play God. We take the earth’s resources for granted and expect chickens to literally grow on trees. But these are futile attempts because something terrible is supposedly awaiting us (birds made of sticks)…

“Seventh Sea.” The tides are apparently coming in tsunamis. But there’s a glimmer of hope (bonfire on the raft).

It’s easy for me to see gloom and pessimism in this particular installation, especially with the use of darker colors and the frowning faces. I found it ironic that Shag’s visual style is reminiscent of the retro era with tiki lounges and umbrella topped margaritas, yet the subject matter feels dark and gloomy. It only lends evidence to my government conspiracy theory: even though things may appear fine, even wonderful on the surface, there’s a lot of shady shit goin on behind the scenes.

I came home glowing with excitement and satisfaction. Visually, Shag’s artwork is really fun to look at. Ever since I got married not but 3 months ago, I’ve been thirsting for color and Shag’s saturated tones were such eye candy for me. I could’ve stayed at that reception for hours, staring at his work and coming up with all kinds of plots. Plus, he never runs out of characters. There is so much going on in one scene that I can easily disregard some characters and incorporate them in other storylines. I still haven’t come up with a satisfactory reason for the naked women and the fish, though… he claims the fish have nothing to do with Christianity, but if that’s where the mind takes you, then have at it. Lord, his paintings are like giant TAT cards.

My first art gallery reception was a complete success despite my attire fit for a hobo. I’ll have to go again.

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