The artist Shag (aka Josh Agle) has a new solo show, Jungle Drums, at the Corey Helford Gallery through February 13, 2016. But before you jump in your car to head for Culver City, you must know that the gallery has moved to a new space in the industrial Arts District of downtown LA.
Before you browse the art, you should watch Eric Minh Swenson’s two videos on display in the entrance area (or check them out online). “Shag: My Tiki Cup Runneth Over” gives a glimpse at Shag’s collection of tiki mugs and carvings.
Meanwhile, “Shag: Jungle Drums” presents some background on the show, including a look at the main source of inspiration: a set of vintage 1950s pin-up decals “in all their politically incorrect glory” that Shag found at a thrift store in his formative younger years.
One of Shag’s challenges for his first show in this new location was utilizing the “airplane hangar”-like space, so he designed these tall “spirit totems” peeking out behind this wall-sized piece. I like how subjects from his art often show up again in 3D form. (Even the stylized skull tiki torches were made tangible in a collaboration with Mod Fab Group to make the “Skorch.”)
In the show’s artist statement, Shag says: “In the decades since, I’ve seen women reclaim the Pin-up Girl aesthetic: strong, tattooed models and independent female photographers have revived and revitalized the genre and turned themselves into pop culture stars.” This theme of empowerment is represented in “Bunny and the Beasts,” an idealized vision of a 1950s shoot with pin-up photographer “Bunny” Yeager and the iconic Bettie Page.
“Primal Cuts” is the largest painting in the show, clocking in at nine feet long. The female revelers are attired as panthers and their “man-eating” capabilities illustrated by the butcher chart emblazoned on the brown jacket of the man on the far right. (This reminded me of “Predators and Prey” from the 2012 show “Animal Kingdom.”)
A print of “Primal Cuts” was just made available for purchase online, and Shag: The Store Palm Springs is hosting a release party on February 13th. (Shag is also participating in a few other events during Palm Springs Modernism Week, including a fundraiser cocktail party at the recently restored Caliente Tropics hotel.)
The highlight for me is this mid-century modern dream of a living room outfitted by Modernica Props. (It should come as no surprise that they’ve worked with “Mad Men,” amongst many other TV shows.)
This is also where visitors first encounter Shag’s series of tributes to those jungle pin-ups, each posed with a wild animal and a “spirit mask.” (I’m guessing they weren’t called “tikis” since they’re not in a Polynesian environment?)
Corey Helford Gallery is open from 12 p.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. The address is on Anderson Street, but you’ll actually find the entrance and fenced-in parking lot by turning right onto Willow Street. The paintings can also be seen on the gallery’s website, but I highly recommend seeing this setup in person if you can.
Corey Helford Gallery
571 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90033