Luscious at RO2 Art Is Dessert for the Eyes

Don't you want to lick it?
Don't you want to lick it?
Erica Stephens

I'm not for dessert after dinner. Honestly, I'm not much for sugar. I don't put it in my coffee; I don't crave pumpkin pie in the fall; and icing gives me a headache. But when it comes to art, my personal taste would manifest as an 11-year-old girl - all sugar plums, lollipops, and lots of color. By god, lots of color.

Certainly, I'll look at any piece of art and consider its place in the contemporary or historical movements of art. I am a huge fan of Francis Bacon, but I'd rather hang a Kandinsky on my wall. Give me Matisse over Picasso, and above all color my walls, Marc Chagall. All of this explains my drooling over RO2 Art's newest exhibition, Luscious: Erica Stephens & Julon Pinkston.

Both artists smear the canvas in paint, Pinkston in such excess as to be almost grotesque (in the most wonderful way), and Stephens with a series of "Frosted Florals" - organized acrylic paintings that make RO2 Art resemble the finest cake shop. It's an artistic dessert buffet that raises your cholesterol just by walking through the door.

Even the names are delectable. Pinkston's "Candy Forest" is a goopy array of implied strawberries and molasses that looks like someone left their Halloween candy on the sidewalk in an unusually warm October. His most eye catching pieces come in the messiest of the bunch, a pair titled "Party" and "After Party," in which he vaguely constructs a suggested pre and post party environment.

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Stephens takes an interest in issues of femininity. On a few paintings, she paints a sort of victorian wallpaper, often naming them to sound like something out of a Jane Austen novel. For example, the above image is "The Ladies Biedermeier: The Emily" -referencing a period in 19th century art when things appealed to common sensibilities. Stephens knows you like her paintings, she wants you to like her paintings, and you probably will. But it's this self-knowledge that gives her work an edge. In the center of the gallery she's created a series of phallic sculptures, decorated in little ornamental painted flowers. "Those are lamp stands," you can imagine a mother telling her children, while throwing her husband a knowing -probably dirty - look.

Luscious is dessert for grownups. It's a cupcake cake laced with rum, or a hot chocolate made with whiskey. And if you've got much of a sweet tooth - artistic or otherwise - this a show you should head to. Although, I wouldn't suggest licking the art; during the gallery opening I witnessed someone beating you to that.

Luscious remains on display at RO2 Art through October 12. Gallery hours are 12-5 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday.


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