A Curious Band of Artists

“Cheers” by Mark Fox, acrylic on wood panel, 2008.

“Cheers” by Mark Fox, acrylic on wood panel, 2008.

Sacramento native Mark Fox—guest curator of BrickHouse Gallery’s upcoming A Curious Band of Artists show—paints like Francis Bacon. No, had Bacon watched more cartoons as a boy, he would have painted like Fox. Confusing, yeah, but hang in there. Fox creates slightly deranged figures whose limbs seem to be made from parts rather than a whole, but there’s a playful quality that underlies the headiness of Fox’s unrestrained and dark creativity. Take, for instance, the hideous boy jumping in the air with a shirt that reads “Rad": funny, but somehow disturbing in a mentally challenged kind of way. Or how about the ghastly man being bitten on the finger by a black cat? Irreverent, of course, but ultimately kind of sick. What we have is a lovably demented imagination come to life with playful lines and unforgettable scenes.

Fox is a self-taught artist, and was diagnosed as bipolar many years ago. Both of those things seem to serve his art well. There is not a trace of pretentiousness in his work, and like the painting of the three solemn men (one with a guitar), there is a lot to interpret in his work, which can be a task for the viewer, but I assure you, it’s a pleasurable one.

Also showing at this hodgepodge show is Portland, Oregon’s Jesse Reno, who utilizes oil pastels, acrylic paint and colored pencils laid over wood panels and canvas to create animals and humans in such ways that makes it hard to distinguish between the two. Upon first glimpse, Reno’s work is primal, but upon further inspection, questions arise; perhaps the most alarming question might be: “Jesus, are animals more human than we are?” Reno’s scenes of beasts in action recall ancient Egypt (they wouldn’t look out of place painted on a cave), and they tell a colorful story with a beginning, middle and end.

This show, which features close to 50 artists, is hardly bound by a theme, but focuses mostly on street art and edgy work by highly imaginative people.