Shag, Baby: Jungle Drums Collection at Corey Helford Gallery

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Shag at Jungle Drums – photo: Jack Burke 

There he is, Shag, a.k.a. Josh Agle, at the opening of his vibrant Jungle Drums collection in the main gallery of the Corey Helford Gallery last Saturday night. Inspired by vintage 1950s era pin-up decals, and adding the spin that women are always in control, diving into the exciting primitive world he evokes is an incredibly fun plunge to take.

But let’s start with a look at the gallery space itself: a cavernous warehouse just across the river from the Arts District, with 12,000 square feet of space. Bright and spacious, there was plenty of room to feel the immersive quality of Shag’s world, as well as view additional collections in Gallery 2 and 3.

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The packed house was “wild” for Shag’s large scale work.

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“Ever since humans tried to civilize themselves, they’re tried to connect with the past as well. The past being the jungle, the beginning. But they do this in an artificial fashion, they pump up the artificial level. I work with these themes, the jungle origin, consumerism, consumption,” the artist relates.

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“But unlike the original jungle environment, I balance male and female interaction.  And everything in this stylized version of our primitive past is artificial. I use nothing natural,” Shag says.

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“Every material used in these pieces is artificial, there are no natural fibers. On the masks, the hair is extruded plastic rubber polymer.”

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In this exhibition, Shag attests,  women are the Amazonian types in charge. They have tamed their jungle environments, their pets, their men. And the artist’s portrayals are, as he puts it, a good excuse “to paint women in sexy tiger fur outfits.”

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These works are all about 60s moderne style, the vivid saturated colors belie a super cool approach. The viewer is reminded of something a revisionist neo-feminist version of Sean Connery’s James Bond might have in his boudoir; something hanging at a hip art museum that the grown-up Flintstone kids might visit.

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Shag’s wonderfully detailed large scale paintings, his towering masks, are pure, unadultrated, imaginative fun. It wasn’t a surprise to find out that Shag was chosen to be the official artist for Disneyland’s 50th back in 2005.

His evocative world now on display at Corey Helford’s new space may not be a fit with Walt’s Magic Kingdom, but he has created a magical kingdom all the same. And for viewers opening night, the exhibition was one of the happiest art scenes on earth.

Meanwhile, in Gallery 2, below, another fine, small exhibition unfolds: Asymmetrical Diptych Party. Here, 20 artists displayed two piece works in a wide range of style, on a wider range of subjects.

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Current exhibitions at Corey Helford Gallery run through February 13 at:

571 S. Anderson Street, Los Angeles.

  • Genie Davis; All Photos: Jack Burke

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