Judy Larson, the director of the Westmont College Ridley-Tree Museum of Art, took a dramatic chance this fall when she chose the duo of Dane Goodman and Keith Puccinelli to create the season’s opening show. It’s not that these men aren’t qualified or well known-each has a substantial reputation, and between them they have been responsible for decades of high quality work not only as fine artists, but also as a graphic designer (Puccinelli) and as a curator (Goodman). But ever since they teamed up as artists six years ago for the series of 110 trace monotype prints known as eating fresh peaches and tomatoes talking about death drawing together, there has been a sense that coming together has taken them to a new place that’s at once more ambitious and more unpredictable than anywhere either has been before. Combining their gifts as classical draftsmen with anarchic wit and satirical detachment, the pair has embarked on a new journey that’s at once full of vitality and bristling with mordant humor.
Acquiring the entire eating fresh peaches series for the Westmont Museum’s permanent collection back in 2013 was Larson’s first bold move. Agreeing to let Goodman and Puccinelli install and then add to the works with an entire new show was the second, and the results are both spectacular and unexpected. The visitor first passes through a large hallway lined with the original series of prints before confronting a pair of blacked out glass doors. Behind this portal lies an installation that merges the duo’s cartoonish-yet-sophisticated drawings with several sculptures, including a spectacular multicolored boat made of plastic and cellophane and illuminated from within. It’s the most surprising and curiously elevating object Santa Barbara has seen in some time. As in the work of Mike Kelley, the clash of means (in this case, both artists participated in handcrafting the hundreds of individual cellophane panels that give the boat its stained-glass quality) and meaning imparts a startling energy to the overall improbability of the thing.
On the wall opposite, a frieze of colorfully enigmatic pajamas tugs the rest of the show towards a childlike dream state where individual objects take on additional personal significance. Two minds and four hands have come together in “tug” to pull up what lies beneath the surface of consciousness. Thankfully, they have also provided a vessel with which to traverse these uncertain depths.