Last Night: "800-Pound Gorilla" at Mad Art.
What You Missed: The opening of a new show featuring St. Louisans Ron Buechele, Jim Mahfood and Peat Wollaeger.
Where: Mad Art Gallery 2727 S. 12th Street.
Better Than: Reading dirty comics and watching "Leave it Beaver."
The lines between comic books and comic art has become distinctly blurred. Between the proliferation of DIY comics to the artistic renaissance that many mainstream titles have undergone in recent years, it’s hard to tell pop-pulp from pop-inspired graphic art -- unless the piece is hanging on a wall.
The distinction would be especially difficult to pin down with Jim Mahfood (aka Food One), whose day job includes purely commercial endeavors like drawing Spider-Man and designing cans for the hipster movement's new beverage of choice, Colt 45.
His ink drawings of sexy comic book chicks, some formed around photos of sexy real-life chicks, are kinky, hip and fun. They strike a nice balance between manic daydream and controlled fantasy.
Peat Wollaeger's work dominates the main room if only because the DJ was blasting hip-hop Johnny Cash remixes from the back of his largest piece, a truck covered with painted eyes. These ocular animations seem to be Wollaeger’s image of choice for the moment.
He had covered the truck, television screens, luchador masks and his own clothes with the cartoonish eyes. The pattern was broken only by a few security-type cameras placed throughout his work; electronic eyes, I suppose.
Ron Buechele (the former police officer/Mad Art owner) makes stuff that is certainly comic inspired, but more Bill Hicks than Frank Miller. Most pieces are an assortment of postwar advertising images, put into context by a naughty phrase.
Think Uncle Sam shaking a meaty forearm in the air surrounded by wolves, donkeys, elephants and boxing gloves above the words "What America needs... is a good fisting!"
They are naughty, clever and fun, but tread into shallow water. They are both easy to dismiss and difficult to ignore. The imagery is repetitive (he puts many of the individual images on to smaller pieces) and purposefully derivative, but some of the pop culture images seem slapped on and don't add to larger works.
At least one parent of the many small children who populated Mad Art last night was grateful that the pictures were quite tame and therefore wouldn't lead to awkward questions on the ride home. The paintings seemed more suited more for an Internet meme than an art gallery. But Ron runs Mad Art so if he puts it on the wall it has to be art, right?