Gallery kicks off with eclectic ‘Hardcore Intensity’

By Robert L. Pincus
San Diego Union-Tribune

February 20, 2003

It’s not easy to see all of Tim McCormick’s “Sack Race”
paintings. They climb to the top of the wall, in rows, and
individual pictures are not large. But he appears to be after
an ensemble effect, variations on a sardonic theme, and you may
find yourself becoming engrossed in his multitude of figures
and canvases. For all of their cynicism, his profusion of
figures and words projects an infectious level of energy.

The main metaphor of the series is right there in the title:
Life is an emotional sack race. He paints some figures with
sacks around their legs and others without. But all of them
might as well come equipped with this crude fashion statement.
Some are cross-eyed; others look as if they simply suffer from
ennui. Words surface like bubble captions without the framing
bubble: “I just crawled from a rock,” “Eye is blind,” “Broken”
and “tragic” are just a few examples.

These and other paintings by McCormick are at “The Muse,” in a
debut show for the funky new gallery. It’s titled “Hardcore

The room furthest back from the street houses most of the
exhibition, which includes a loose-knit circle of artists who
have been seen together in several venues across the county.
But some of the work, like the “Sack Race” paintings, push
forward into the music store that fills a space fronting the

There is nothing rarefied about the installation or the
atmosphere of the place. McCormick is going to direct the
gallery, and you have to conclude that it will have the imprint
of an artist-run venue. It will be freewheeling and have an
exhibition program that will have an improvised feel.

Prices usually are separate from aesthetic issues and not worth
a mention. But McCormick and several others have priced the art
so low that it deserves a mention. Clearly, there is an
unusually democratic attitude toward the dissemination of this
work. They want objects to go out the door at good clip.

Befitting the anti-preciousness of the space, media are
several. Mary Fleener is exhibiting erotic mosaics, in which
bodies are painted in all directions, some separate and some
joined in sexual bliss. She calls the series “Make Love Not
War.” Small canvases offer examples of her characteristic
cartoon Cubism – faces and forms reduced to sharp contours and
brassy areas of color.

Regarding war, there are also Pierce William’s crisply designed
posters – their militaristic imagery offset by an exhortation
in one (“Stop the War”) and an ominous prophecy in another
(“One Minute to Meltdown”). Perry Vasquez, resident visual
satirist of issues involving the border and regional Latino
issues, is political here, too. He is in sharp slapstick form
with clothing patches, T-shirts and stenciled images on
cardboard done by him and K8 Wince. The man on all of them is a
Mexican version of the famous R. Crumb guy of “Keep on
Truckin'” fame. The caption is “Keep on Crossin'” and the
images are signed “R. Carumba.”

Album covers from vinyl records and pieces of plywood are Mike
Maxwell’s media. Anyone remember “My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed
Ames? His face has disappeared from the photographic album
cover. Maxwell has painted a pale, leering face over it. The
humor is too easy, but you’re still likely to crack a smile.

Not all work has to be elegantly crafted to work its effects on
a viewer. The last century offers numerous examples: among
them, dada constructions and assemblages by artists from Robert
Rauschenberg to George Herms. But when technique undermines an
intriguing idea, that matters. Small paintings in which little
machines appear to be burrowing into a brightly patterned
surface cross abstraction with sci-fi effects in an intriguing
way. But the technique of Poor Al’s drolly named series, “They
Start Every Morning at 7 A.M.,” is distractingly sloppy.

Ragged art comes with the territory – that is, work by artists
that see themselves as outsiders to whatever they perceive as
an art world establishment. Some artists display it as a badge
of honor, which can work against them. This is unfortunately
true for works on view by Emily Coonce and Kent Bates as well.
For other artists, rough execution can be a sign of ideas
leaping ahead of technique. Maxwell might qualify for this

Ultimately, antagonism to established art is part of a process
of renewal; it helps to infuse an art scene with new vitality.
The Muse is a welcome sign of that process.

Robert L. Pincus: (619) 293-1831; [email protected]

art review

“Hardcore Intensity,”

work by 28 artists

Through March 3

The Muse, 2911 University Ave.,

North Park; free; (619) 296-8539