Cine Delirio
Featuring: Shawn Barber, Eric Joyner, Lee Harvey Roswell, and Nathan Spoor
The Shooting Gallery
855 Larkin, San Francisco
Opening Feb 10, 2005
Ongoing until March 5, 2005
Review by Ert O'Hara

View Photos from the opening

"Surrealism: noun, masculine. Pure psychic automation by which one intends to express verbally, in writing or by other method, the real functioning of the mind. Dictation by thought in the absensce of any control exercised by reason, and beyond any aesthetic or moral preoccupation. Surrealism is based on the belief ... in the omnipotence of dreams, in the undirected play of thought." --Andre Breton, The Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924

In its current exhibit, The Shooting Gallery is showing surreal paintings from four currently Californian artists: hard-working commercial illustrator Shawn Barber who just moved to SF from Florida with his wife and cat, Eric Joyner - epicly-long-famous for his paintings of tin robots and giant donuts, Lee Harvey Roswell - defying all short summations, and Nathan Spoor - the only artist who I didn't get to chat with at the show, though I unwittingly took his picture.

The press release for Cine Delirio says that it aligns itself with, "an artistic school of thought that held up the Marquis de Sade as an icon of ethical instruction." Are these people who indulge their most base desires and live freely in their minds and hearts and souls from the practical and ethical expectations of society? Do they express this with their artwork? All four artists in this show have several pieces on display, and each artist's work is remarkable in different ways.

Shawn Barber has a range of painting styles in this show but a curious thread throughout - basically, a nude standard baby doll in various forms of flight, repose, color, and facial content. The largest piece in this show is his Divine Intervention, which incorporates an image of friend and fellow artist Lee Harvey Roswell, the conflicting calls of street signs vs. street signage as graffiti, and various versions of the baby doll falling from a burning building. Suicidal Tendencies shows the baby again, this time painted a glossy realistic red, taking a casual walk off a city rooftop. I wasn't wearing my glasses, and I thought it was shiny from layers of varnish until I got up close to see that it was confident swipes of white over perfect rendering of light and dark in a rich blood red that made the baby gleam. Impending Doom is a looser, less photo-realist rendering of the baby, this time in a scene that you are 99.9% unlikely to witness while not on acid. The baby, with a frozen expression of semi-joy and Godzilla proportions, seems to be walking ashore from an ocean where it may have been using giant donuts as floatation devices..to what? to where? Ominous. Shawn claims not to be "obsessed with dolls or anything", but the tattoo on his arm begs to differ.

Eric Joyner's art is happy and dark, sweet and desolate, funny and full of euphemistic Id. Toys and sweets and 50s/60s style sci-fi fantasy are the arsenal of iconography that he uses to tell his tales. Moreso than the others, his paintings are stories. What happened in Turning Point that led to one melty robot shaking hands with another non-melty robot while the hand of god tosses sugary donuts onto a dismal landscape without any organic life? Recharging shows us the head of a robot propped up on sticks, in a desert, sleeping by the way as little sheep are jumping through a hoop on its head, being visited by someone in a spacesuit...who got there by locomotive, but where's the body? Maybe at the temple of the donut far in the distance?

I really wish I would have gotten to talk with Nathan Spoor. It was his paintings that I was most taken with in terms of aesthetics. The Slow Rain of Consciousness and The Alchemist are breathtaking in their color harmony, composition and rendering of light and dark. The Alchemist especially wooed me because of its Art Nouveau stylings and tasty green monochromatics. On Obligations, Whispers and the Like has a lovely sentiment on balancing the the heart and brain, and other symbolic imagery of home, motherhood, healing and caregiving that I didn't get a clear read on, but enjoy looking at just the same. Another nice touch that I like is how he signs his paintings as fancy and handsome he paints them.

Lee Harvey Roswell's contributions to this show are the most representative of the two definitions of surrealism listed above. His pieces are the most indulgent and provocative in this group. It's fun to get pulled into examining the melded together imagery in his paintings, only to be poked in the eye by subtle, sometimes actually shocking, nonsense - I just didn't expect see that penis there.. My what a large tongue you have coming out of your chest.. Oops, you forgot your teeth in the side of that hand.. and I thought it was awfully sporting of Lee Harvey to groom himself in full surrealist style for the show (though no porkchop earmuffs, I'm sad to report), until I did more research on him and discovered that he always looks like bit like a 18th century rogue with unexpected knicknacks decorating his spires of facial hair. He also went the extra mile with his unframed paintings and continued the scenes around the edges of the canvases. I told him what a nice touch I think that is, and he replied that he came to regret that decision because it was so hard getting around the edges of the paintings, and it took a lot more time than he wanted to spend. I hope he doesn't seriously regret it, because these seemingly small yet time-consuming details add a great sense of secret treasure and discovery to already fascinating paintings.

The Shooting Gallery seems to be on a neverending streak of great shows. The show before the current one—Yumiko Kayukawa, Lisa Alisa, and Wanyu Chou—was amazing, and the next show—Surreal Populism—will be another must see as well. If you get to the show this month, you may be able to peek at some of the art from last month...I think it's hanging upstairs in the gallery.

Artwork by Nathan Spoor

Artwork by Nathan Spoor

Artwork by Eric Joyner

Artwork by Nathan Spoor