“Miju: Effigies and Demigods”

Pub date September 3, 2008
WriterAri Messer
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW Dear Miju, I know you aren’t a folk singer. You are an artistic collaboration between Bay Area artists (and couple) Michele Muennig and Juan Carlos Quintana. Using childhood imagery and a fittingly subdued palette, you deconstruct fantasy worlds on paper and canvas. Your solo show at Jack Fischer Gallery, "Effigies and Demagogues," is both outlandish and darkly comical: dolls catch fire and real people head to the edge of the abyss. Still, your art — how did you fit so many big paintings in such a small gallery? — reminds me irrevocably of folkie John Wesley Harding, né Wesley Stace, one of our most ironic songwriters.

You are an improved Harding — one who knows when to stop. Harding’s "The Night He Took Her to the Fairground" was murdered by studio musicians but sounds fantastic when he does it solo with a guitar: "He poisoned her with words / She tried to spit them out," he croons, and, as your paintings Shallow Cause for Optimism and Destiny for the 21st Century Manifested show at Jack Fischer, it’s hard to tell if people are trying to hurt each other or if they’re just caught up in the same bad dream. In Shallow Cause, your separate artistic touches combine seamlessly to evoke a marionette that has slackened forever. In Destiny, people exhaust themselves trying to haul the icons of a Manifest Destiny that never existed, while another character parts curtains only to reveal cliffs.

You must have read what I read: Mattimeo (Philomel, 1989), Through the Looking Glass, and Peter Pan. And you must have looked at the illustrations similarly: J.D. Bedford’s Tinker Bell was more frightening than his Captain Hook, for she seemed not to know how foolish she looked, twinkling about, headed for the open sea but dressed for the beach.

MIJU: EFFIGIES AND DEMAGOGUES Through Sept. 27. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Jack Fischer Gallery, 49 Geary, suite 440, SF. (415) 956-1178, www.jackfischergallery.com