San Francisco painter Kara Maria has long used the graphic language of comics to air her views on world events. Mixing it with abstraction and realism, she’s developed an enviable (and sometimes epic) body of seriocomic works that have pitted man-made maladies against cataclysmic natural forces. These she renders in a pastiche of art-historical styles.
That would certainly be the case with Haywire, Maria’s her fourth show with the gallery. It features 15 works small-to-medium size works targeting environmental destruction, the weight of which is borne by lone animals (primates, rhinos, rodents, skunks, bats, leopards) dropped into artificial environments. Repeated motifs in
these paintings include: starburst explosions seen from an aerial perspective; spiraling vapor trails; a quasi-cubist sense of space defined by hard-edge geometric forms; swatches of scraped paint executed in the manner of Gerhard Richter; and dots and stripes of the sort Roy Lichtenstein once used.
Peer through all this activity and you’ll see many things: a skunk perched on a bulbous shape that could have been cut out and colored by Matisse; a raccoon situated similarly on a patch of squeegee-pulled paint; a hippo strolling into a pinkish fireworks display; a bat winging across a toxic swamp; and a leopard lost in a downpour of molecular diagrams. Ask yourself what these creatures are doing in these settings and the answer is obvious: they’re trying to survive. Problem is: there’s not much urgency conveyed. What we see in
Haywire feels more like a pop surrealist vision of dystopian resignation than anything truly apocalyptic (i.e. Bosch, Brueghel, John Martin, Max Ernst.)