Monday, October 20, 2008
Artsy Politics: Ronnie Conal's "No Spitting, No Kidding" Exhibit at Track 16 Gallery
I've been on an artsy kick lately (hitting up Bergamot Station, the Getty Center and John Lautner's architecture exhibit at the Hammer in the past couple of weeks), and also on a bit of a political kick (thoroughly into TV's presidential debate season), so I was excited to check out L.A. political artist, Robbie Conal's "No Spitting, No Kidding" exhibit opening at Bergamot Station's Track 16 Gallery this past weekend.
I wasn't familiar with Conal's work prior to the exhibit but was intrigued when I read a profile describing him as one of Shepard Fairey's inspirations and contemporaries. Apparently, Conal has quite a following; several hundred people--a good mix of older, serious artsy-fartsy folks, casually curious art appreciators like me and black-rimmed glasses-wearing Westside 30-somethings--turned out for the event.
Spread throughout 5 large rooms in the 6,000 sq foot gallery, the exhibit is a retrospective showcase of his work over the past 25 years. The eye-catching collection includes large, goopy oil paintings of political figures with pithy slogans (my favorite is the above portrait of Reagan sandwiched between the words CONTRA and DICTION), smaller charcoal-on-canvas caricatures of iconic political personalities and splashy mural-sized collages skewering our obsession with pop culture (American Idol, Michael Jackon and even Alf and the smurfs get an artistic shout-out.)
I could explain the clever and visually arresting art pieces in more detail, but they say 5 pictures is worth five thousand words...
The opening reception invite touted a surprise musical guest by a "Hollywood Bowl" headliner. The amps and guitars set up in the corner clued me in it wasn't going to be the Philharmonic but I was stoked when L.A. Latin/hip-hop/punk band Ozomatli greeted the crowd. The surprise bonus concert capped off a great night of complimentary booze and conversation-starting artwork. Ozomatli played a breezy 6-song, 40 minute set, including a band-&-audience group serenade of 'happy birthday' to artist and birthday boy, Ronnie Conal. The fact that the high-energy concert was inside an art gallery--usually a venue that encourages hushed tones--made it even more fun. Even better was seeing the gray-haired art-crowd contingent enthusiastically bopping their heads to the punky, 8-piece band and grabbing flyers to the 2am afterparty at an undisclosed location in downtown L.A.
The exhibit runs through November 22nd. Whether you agree with Robbie Conal's political philosophies or not, his visually arresting artwork is worth checking out and a great excuse to visit the greatly underrated Bergamot Station art galleries.
Ronnie Conal "No Spitting, No Kidding" Art Exhibit
Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Ave, Bulding C-1, Santa Monica
Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM