No art world celebrity is safe from the comical jabs delivered by Laura Paperina in her new exhibit at LincArt, Ridiculous Things. Her brightly colored cartoon style is easy to compare to early Simpsons characters, especially because she included a picture of Homer Simpson killing Kenny from South Park. Other pop icons are fair game for Paperina, such as the Desperate Housewives and Steve Jobs, but the majority of her subjects are blue chip art-related.
Large-scale highlights include images of Barry McGee beheaded by one of his own signature blue characters, Banksy with rats-for-brains (a nod to his street art staple, a stenciled rat), and Takashi Murakami's Mickey-mocking brain child, DOB, sweating to death. In a row of smaller paintings, the dots Damien Hirst is known for painting cover his nude body like a pox, and his infamous diamond skull sculpture is rendered crudely nearby. Though Paperina loves to ridicule and depict the demise of news-making artists, I suspect she also has a secret reverence for them. You could tell the blood squirting from McGee's neck was painted with love.
Paperina is my favorite kind of artist because she focuses on cranking out the message, not painting with unattainable skill. She excels at leveling with her viewer and even painted a portrait of herself shouting "hello" from the roof of LincArt.
Caricatures of art dealers proclaiming their greatness and/or dying are another specialty of Paperina's. She's prolific with her death scenarios. Jack Hanley gets mauled by a bear, Jeffrey Deitch is crushed by a hairy pink foot, and Jay Jopling jumps from the roof of his own White Cube gallery. Hilarity prevails in Paperina's morbid pictures, despite Larry Gagosian's split head and Charles Saatchi's melting face. Is she bitter? No, she's Italian.
An American artist might appear invidious and trite, but Paperina comes off smooth and snarky (in a good way). Her show is a cartoon snapshot of big names in the contemporary art scene as it stands today and will likely be archived in history. Let's hope she's not prophetic because it is not uncommon for artists to be offed by their own creations.
Most of the paintings can be seen online, but don't deprive yourself of this opportunity to laugh out loud at an art show. You can go to every other art gallery in town and I guarantee you won't see anything funnier than Paperina's Fat Spiderman painting. If you do, please tell me where it is. I like my art the same way I like my movies: funny. The world is serious enough as it is.
See this article on SF Gate to find out what Laurina Paperina's real last name is, and what Barry McGee thinks of the homage.
Ridiculous Things is on display at Lincart, 1632C Market Street, San Francisco, through February 14th, 2009. For more information, call 415-503-1981.