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Celebrating OC Weekly's Favorite Visual Artists

Dave Barton writes:

Valerie Lewis Gulls

Think curator Stephan "Bax" Baxter's chasing a review by gathering together four artists who've been named Best Visual Artist in OC Weekly? You're just being cynical. Think his sneaky appeal to our vanity succeeded because you're reading that review right now? Absolutely right.

No longer with the Magoski Arts Colony, Baxter has done a fine job transforming half of Max Bloom's Café Noir into a pop-up gallery. The four artists he's showing in "Quatre Meillures: OC Weekly's Best Artists"—Valerie Lewis (winner 2014), John Sollom (2012), Kebe Fox (2013) and Russ Pope (2010)—all radically differ in style, but they are concerned at some level with social issues and their works hang well on the same walls, a testament to our,ahem, good taste at this distinguished rag.


Lewis' works are arguably the most emotional in the show and easily the most moving: A young woman smokes a cigarette during a moment of calm respite, as an otherwise chaotic atmosphere—gold, green, auburn and rust—roils around behind her. "ROLL OVER OR STAND UP" is stenciled repeatedly over an image of curator Baxter, holding a protest sign, a strip of duct tape covering his mouth. The remaining portraits are erotic celebrations of art and male beauty. In a loving portrait of her boyfriend, Lewis splashes fluorescent green paint around him as if a protective blanket, isolating and bringing attention to his shoulder-length hair and smooth features. Even more sensual is Lewis' painting of a shirtless/possibly naked young man drifting in a sun-lit ocean of pale yellow and orange, his face tilted back in sublime ecstasy. The final piece, quoted in our ode to her in 2014's Best Of issue, is her gorgeous painting I Am Naked and Foolish, a statement every painter should embrace.

Or just give up and sling coffee.

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