Growing up in Tijuana, Mexico, Jorge R. Gutierrez hopped the border legally every weekday to attend a Catholic school in nearby California. He’s now an American citizen and a resident of Los Angeles, yet he still straddles worlds. “Border Banged,” his Artbot Gallery show of paintings and prints, is a delirious, gently satirical spin through trans-global pop culture.
Gutierrez’s main gig is animation. He co-created “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera,” which debuted on Nickelodeon in 2007, and directed and co-wrote “The Book of Life,” a 2014 feature. So it’s hardly surprising that his paintings are exuberantly cartoonish. He often renders culturally mashed-up portraits of kiddie icons, the figures defined by black lines and the colors bright and simple.
Gutierrez transliterates made-in-U.S.A. characters by means of Mexican iconography, incorporating masked wrestlers and Day of the Dead skulls and bones. His reimagined ’toons include Bart Sanchez, El Schrek and Macho Mouse. The artist also swings through Japan to Mexicanize such heroes as Nino Astro, El Dragonbol and Los Powerangers. Other sources of inspiration are sports, tattoos, hip-hop, classic Hollywood movies and band posters. One of the prints on display celebrates Mexrissey, a Mexico City combo that performs Morrissey songs in Spanish.
Gutierrez’s pictures are lighthearted, but navigating the borderlands can be risky. The artist is fine with that. “I love to disappoint both sides,” he said at the show’s opening. Thus his rogue’s gallery includes “El Sell Out,” a portrait of a man who stands amid the mass-media maelstrom, receiving a death threat with a big grin. It’s a self-portrait.
Jorge R. Gutierrez: Border Banged Through Oct. 24 at Artbot Gallery at Marlowe Ink, 1012 Madison St., Alexandria.
The stairs to Strathmore Mansion’s second floor, which hosts “Timber,” are dominated by a massive bear and a flock of suspended birds. Both are by Emily White and made primarily of wood scaffolding, supplemented by naturalistic details in metal. The skeletal creatures demonstrate the heights of invention in this group show, which also includes many examples of more traditional woodworking.
White’s work has little to do with the show’s craft items, which include beautifully fashioned vessels and furniture. Other contributors hew closely to wood’s customary uses, but give the material some amusing twists. Ellie Richard’s brooms have handles that zig and zag into myriad nonfunctional forms. Mark Sfirri’s “Rejects From the Bat Factory” is a set of five baseball bats that are impeccably made but quite useless because they’re bent, notched or even knotted. Simpler but just as elegant are Richard’s Foa’s bowl of “fruits and nuts,” a selection of balls carved from cherry, pecan and other woods, and Tazuko Ichikawa’s “Fold” pieces, which pretend to give sculpted pine the pliancy of silk.
None of the artists chop trees into the form of people, but two of them do carve wood into the shape of human hands. While Lorenzo Cardim’s “Limp Wrist” addresses gay identity, George Lorio’s “Clear Cut” considers the source of wood itself. The piece depicts a devastated grove whose fallen leaves are bark cut into the shape of hands. The appendage is an accusation: The same species that can work so respectfully in wood is also capable of reducing forests to stumps, sawdust and toilet paper.
Timber Through Oct. 20 at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda.
Contortion and Flick
Almost as gargantuan as “Timber’s” bear, a metal woman towers over “Contortion: Melodrama and the Figure,” at Brentwood Arts Exchange. Devised by Melissa Ichiuji, the steel Amazon holds six burning houses, illuminated from inside, in her six hands. Made partly from found metal parts yet with explicit human sexuality, this scrap-yard goddess looks far less vulnerable than the stuffed-fabric women Ichiuji contributed to the show. One of them, bloodily pierced by eight dental mirrors, might be a modern-day Saint Sebastian, martyred at the orthodontist’s office.
The other three artists also warp the human form, to various ends. Jenny Kanzler’s paintings, which have a gothic-tale vibe, include one in which a sleeping man’s form is mirrored by that of ghostly figure floating above him. Influenced by computer imagery, Rives Wiley depicts people who are flattened, elongated or pixelated. David Ibata distorts his otherwise immaculately realistic renderings of heads by omitting parts of them, which are suggested by lines or areas of color. There’s nothing ominous about this technique, though. Where the other artists do some sort of violence to their subjects, Ibata allows the eye to make his crayon and pastel portraits whole.
Also at Brentwood, Jeremy Flick continues his experiments with hard-edge blocks of evenly applied pigment. His “Superpositions” feature fields of two or three colors that appear to overlap partly and yield additional hues. The compositions are tidy, and the colors harmonious. Yet the overall effect is complicated by the way the artist arrays the paint on shaped canvases. Such pairings as white and green or two shades of yellow are calming, but Flick’s oblique angles disturb the peace.
Contortion: Melodrama and the Figure and Jeremy Flick: Superpositions Through Oct. 26 at Brentwood Arts Exchange, 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.
Domestic life isn’t all that everyday in “Quotidian,” Alain Laboile’s suite of summery photographs at the Leica store gallery. The French artist lives with a brood of wild creatures — his six children — who commune with nature in active ways. On a rural spread in the south of France, the kids climb trees, jump for joy and examine insects and amphibians. There’s an even a shot, one of just a few color images in a preponderance of sepia-toned black-and-white, of a little girl who has painted most of her skin a vivid peacock blue. (There’s a lot of bare skin in Laboile’s pictures, yet it’s altogether innocent.)
The photos are candids, impeccably framed with an eye for motion and natural light. Laboile often shoots from above or below, and in the latter compositions he captures such luminous details as drops of water frozen in sunbeams. Elsewhere, bright skies yield shadows, coronas, silhouettes or glimmers on dark water. Laboile is also a sculptor, and his understanding of form complements his knack for seizing the ideal moment.
Alain Laboile: Quotidian Through Oct. 21 at Leica, 977 F St. NW.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect title for an art show at Brentwood Arts Exchange. The show by artist Jeremy Flick is titled “Superpositions,” not “Superimpositions.”