“I So Beautiful” (oil on cradled panel, 7 x 9 inches) by Ryan Heska courtesy of the artist and Corey Helford Gallery

‘FREEKS’ by Ryan Heshka @ Corey Helford Gallery

August 23, 2019

Ryan Heshka in Gallery 2 at Corey Helford Gallery provides a continuity in a recurring theme in Los Angeles contemporary art for nostalgia. Yet his reminiscence – which always has a weight of sentimentality to memory – is original in that it diverges from a more childish subjectivity which accompanies rudimentary artwork from children. He does not aim to resuscitate a curiosity to artwork, as a newfound child would be excited to savor the ability to invent new concepts with colors, shapes, and figures, but instead he recollects a “nuclear family” motif. It is quite the notion: to remember the fantasy of a culturally conformist time which centered around families orbiting a television set to enjoy “playful horror”; in some sense, a confrontation of mortality lightheartedly. For the compositions of the past, as well as in Mr. Heshka’s work which yearn for such comparisons, choose the mythically macabre as a demonstration of the supernatural with a connotation of a beyond life-force penetrating our own temporal humanity.


Perhaps such a mid-20th century interpretation of the supernatural has remnants in The Brothers Grimm, to provide some degree of catharsis with a mass-cultural conception of the goodness of the afterlife. Mr. Heshka, however, does not make such a strong spiritual commitment, as that would be superfluous to the simple joy of concocting whimsy amidst the dawn of mass consumerism penetrating the intimacy of family life. Though this post-war political economy effect is not the central concern for Mr. Heshka, we can identify its element in his series as self-reflective of this conformist period with every household stocking their cupboards with Campbell soup cans, and what’s more, a comfortable possession of an abundance of leisure.


There isn’t an exposition into this sociology with the work, but it requires some analysis to find its poignancy in contemporaneity. Why, for instance, is the recrudescence of professional hair-dos available to the common woman keen to be reminded of? Perhaps this is an effort at reaching for simplicity and therefore transcendentally elegance of human life which was not yet discombobulated by electrical cords and battery charging anxieties some fifty odd years ago. And central to such a rare historical period in written history – where the common man with simple tastes was celebrated as virtuous – is a tranquility in a regular life. Thus, the infusion of horror into placid Americana, Mr. Heshka reminds us, is an aim to indeed relax the nerves about the frightening unknowns that may go bump in the night. This welcoming of the uncertain is a perennial affirmation of life in human culture and of good art.


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