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by Kathy Zimmerer

Merwin Belin, "It Will
All Disappear," collage,
25 x 19", 1995.




Dave Smith, "Orange County
Bathroom with Choice of 3 Vanities,"
acrylic on drywall, 44 x 48", 1998.



Troy Cherney, "Brazil Nuts,"
emulsion/hemp, 16 x 21", 1995.

(Sunyata, San Pedro) Flowmaster, curated by artist Ron Linden, is an intriguing look at three interesting artists working, as Linden says, in an “offbeat, politically and socially charged” manner.

Merwin Belin’s elegant collages are conceived by the artist as “political Pop,” for he treats political and social ideas with a certain irony. In It Will All Disappear Belin dramatically aligns a fragment of a Navajo rug with a record by the Coasters. As implied by his title, these two masterworks by artists from different cultures will either be treasured in the national memory or the vibrancy of these two art forms may fade away.

Simple, yet concise, Belin’s work is always thought provoking and finely worked. Mystic Eye is a jewel-like collage which plays on the spiritual uncertainties of the future. He uses a lie detector game, “The Mystic Eye” as the focus of his piece. Various elements of the game such as “Lucky Numbers,” “Self-analysis” and “Psychometer” float around the all seeing, all knowing eye in the center. A photo of Jimi Hendrix is juxtaposed against the game, his iconic image a symbol of lost youth and psychological intensity.

Dave Smith works in a subversive Pop mode that is both humorous and touching. His Orange County Bathroom with Choice of 3 Vanities is a quirky parody of a model home brochure. Set against a newly constructed bathroom wall with a glistening shower head, three bathroom vanities float in a cluster, held together by a postcard view of a suburban roofline with palm trees. The suburban ideal of owning your own home becomes mundane when it boils down to the selection of three boring vanities.

Smith precisely skewers the homogeneity of suburban life with other amusing and artful pieces. Dream Kitchen reads as an interesting abstract as well as a sample for floor tile for the perfect house. All the amenities of suburban life are listed between the diagonal design lines including “Spill Proof Shelves”, “Digital Timer”, “Fluff Cycle” and “Thru-Door Ice Dispenser.” In Western Landscape brilliantly colored images partially obscure a wallpaper landscape with cowboys and Indians. The Day-Glo primary colors are the only jarring note in this patterned landscape, and two motor homes race through trying to see it all. Smith’s meticulously rendered canvases have a subtle irony that perfectly evokes the bland boredom of life in suburbia.

Troy Cherney adeptly manipulates photo-based images in his eerie, politically infused images. Hitler has a giant phallus in Naked Aggression. A giant, hovering double double cheeseburger in Our Lady of the Cheese threatens the Virgin Mary in her roadside shrine. Brazil Nuts is an oddity in which a sketchy photo of two hanged men is juxtaposed with two rows of Brazil nuts lined up like a prehistoric stone monument. Cherney’s images are skillfully manipulated to cause the viewer to do an instant double take.

Working in three divergent styles, all of the artists approach their subjects with an inherent irony which they skillfully reveal in their incisive imagery. In his glowing collages, Merwin Belin explores the fragility of modern culture. Dave Smith’s pristine Pop paintings are studies in the banalities of suburban life. In Troy Cherney’s displaced images, he exposes the convoluted layers of modern life.