Poignant and Surreal: Eric Joyner and Lori Nelson at Corey Helford Gallery

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One of the most engaging aspects of the current exhibitions at Corey Helford Gallery is that they are both visually entertaining and metaphorically deep. These are the figures of a childhood that never was, stories that could yet be. Steeped in magical realism, artists Eric Joyner and Lori Nelson each offer a strangely satisfying assessment of technology, childhood, fairy tales, and childish things roaming about in the world.

San Francisco-based artist Eric Joyner’s “Tarsus Bondon Dot” is an exhibition of large scale images that often feature brightly colored robots and large-scale donuts. The realistic style of Joyner’s landscapes belies their whimsical surrealism.

helford ice cream The oil on panel “Special Delivery” features a robot driving an ice cream truck into an abyss; “All Systems Go” sends a not-too-happy cat into space; while in “Escape Velocity,” an X-12 tears through the clouds while giant donuts rise like a monolith in the background. “Rockin’ at Sharkeys” depicts a big robot crowd watching a robot match-up in a boxing ring. 

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Absurd though these images may be, they ably depict aspects of real life in juxtapositions that make viewers smile. Working in a vibrant palette that full utilizes the texture and depth of oil, Joyner manages to fuse the amusing, the touching, the strange, and the mysterious in his Transformers-like fairy tale world.

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In Gallery 2, Lori Nelson’s bewitchingly lovely  “Cryptotweens: Find My Friends” pairs well with Joyner. Both artists work in oil and use fanciful figures and sharp wit; both have an underpinning of wistfulness, even sadness.  Nelson’s fairy tale scenes are darker than Joyner’s, illustrating with delicate precision a parallel world in which creatures both human and not traverse a territory that is frozen between childhood and adulthood. Personal growth aside, these inhabitants have bigger things on their mind – avoiding or girding themselves to co-exist with a technology that is threatening to overtake them.

Nelson’s dark blue palette creates a nighttime world in which her characters roam, hide, and search. The exhibition’s title piece, the diptych “Find My Friends” reveals two almost-tweens using hand-held computers as if they were flashlights, creating beams of light to undertake a search in a dark forest. A raccoon, an owl, a bunny, and a squirrel accompany them, with glowing red eyes. The squirrel holds a satellite dish, while behind them, other satellite dishes float on a river.

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“Opt Out IV” has a cryptotween curled up seeking safety and escape below ground. Cozily snuggled with bunnies beneath the roots of a tree, above ground satellite dishes and scanners ominously proliferate.

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And in gallery three, lush paintings by Iva Troj & Sergio Lopez create classical images in a rich dreamscape.

Running through June 3rd, these shows serve as both fascinating art and highly entertaining pop culture – with a little shiver of recognition thrown in. 

Corey Helford is located at 571 S. Anderson Street in DTLA.

  • Genie Davis; photos Genie Davis and courtesy of Corey Helford Gallery