Camille Rose Garcia is an icon of Pop Surrealism, a rare talent and an even rarer presence as a woman in the earliest days of the Juxtapoz-fueled movement. Her special gift has been to fuse Disney-driven fairytale archetypes with a subversive punk rock flair and a minxy, Suicide Girl-inflected, cabaret-style sexuality. Her uniquely expressive drawings and painted works, heavy on mythological symbolism, capture the zeitgeist of the so-called Low Brow movement, but the eclectic and sometimes esoteric sources of her inspirations infused that genre’s aesthetic with a refreshing depth and a commitment to technique and raw emotion that set her apart early in her career.
A few years ago she published a reworked version of Snow White in charming book form, and this exhibition includes several original black-and-white drawings—like storyboards and character studies—which serve to illuminate her advanced, quirky, and confident draftsmanship. Yet her best paintings are those in which her shape making is more rawly imperfect, and her atmospherics more fantastically dreamlike—emphases placed on the sur- rather than the -realism. This series is an ambitious foray into the counterintuitive world of large-scale intimacy, with impressive, almost psychotropic results that dazzle but are not free of frisson. Despite the success and broad appeal of works like Someone’s in the Wolf, with its Kandinsky-in-Xanadu magic mountain motif, and Revenge of Lolita Phantasma, with its overtly Freudian fandango humor, the looseness in her wrist doesn’t fully translate to her elbow. What the new large-scale paintings gain in operatic impactfulness, chromatic musicality, and compositional complexity, they also lose (just a little) in gestural intimacy and the rough, folkloric charm of her earlier works—a selection of which is included in a side gallery, encouraging the comparison. What has not changed is the ferocity of Garcia’s haute-cheek feminism, in which sexy and sinister is celebrated, and a corset and garter is considered a power suit. In works like House of Psyche and others, Garcia deploys endlessly layered, prismatic, translucent glazes and incorporates the panels’ extant wood grain texture and pattern as graphic and spatial facets of the composition. These emotional abstract passages especially infuse the works with both folksy and fantastical poetics.