Collectively titled Ugly Baby Knuckles, the series of paintings up now at Marion & Rose's Workshop (461 9th St., Oakland), rides a free-spirited wave between the erratic and the tempered. Artists Daniel Healey, Darren Hawk, and Michael Cutlip — collaborating as the single, art-making machine called Dealey Dawk Mutlip — created fifty or so small-scale works that defy easy categorization, straddling the line between what some may consider garbage and others might consider treasure. Somehow, the bizarre little paintings work really well, both on their own and as a collection.
Full of color, energy, and a large pinch of insanity, the work seems to have sprung organically from the best stylistic bits of each of the three artists. As in all great artistic collaborations, the sum appears greater than its parts. Healey, whose work was most recently featured at the McLoughlin Gallery booth at ArtPadSF, is known for abstract works whose layered media seems to reflect a foreboding sense of urban detritus. Assemblage artist Hawk works with slightly altered ready-mades, focusing on composition, balance, and the formal structure of the picture plane. Prolific painter Cutlip rounds out the group and adds a fine-art touch that grounds the work, with color that was applied with something that might have looked like a brush.
Although expressive in nature, the paintings are not necessarily abstract. There are hidden images and a latent narrative of haunting violence underneath the compositions. The images, often collaged elements, depict elephants that seem to balance on umbrellas, bestial humanoids peeing off of buildings, and skulls that resemble blooming flowers.
The venue for this exhibit, Marion and Rose's Workshop, is part of Old Oakland's popuphood and is celebrating its newly signed lease with this exceptional art show. What was once an empty storefront is now a thriving arts community, part of Oakland Art Murmur, and a venue for working artists in all media. In the process, owners Kerri Johnson and Alissa Goss have created a new gallery format for the 21st century, far more dynamic than the sterile white box of most contemporary art spaces. In addition to Ugly Baby Knuckles, paintings by local art stars Jason Byers and Michael McConnell are also on view, as well as the sculpture of Scott MacLeod. Ugly Baby Knuckles runs through July 6. 510-214-6794 or MarionandRose.com