Over the past few years, Rosen has developed an interchangeable roster of pictograms, a sort of post-apocalyptic bio-mechanical tarot deck that he continually reconfigures. He offers more than two dozen such arrangements in "The Birth of Machine Consciousness." While many artists capable of composing a compelling small-scale drawing fall apart when faced with larger scales, Rosen's standout work is by far the largest piece in the exhibit, the two-panel From a New Zodiac for Sentient Machines, a Soviet-hued dyptich that allows his robotic subjects to unfold to new levels of feverish complexity. The next strongest work in the show is, unsurprisingly, a print multiple. The "catalog" for the exhibit is, in fact, a lavish, limited edition of multipass silkscreen prints published by Le Dernier Cri, probably the most opulent publishers of comix-related art books. With only 50 published and an initial price of $350, it's my Art Steal of the Week.
In a corner of the La Luz gallery, Rosen's work is presented on TV in the form of two elaborate animations whose flickering, clockwork action suits his work perfectly, while illuminating his debt to Georges Méliès, Jan Svankmajer and Harry Smith. By purposefully mixing and blurring the categories of painting, digital and photographic animation, printmaking and commercial printing, Rosen's technique mimics the crackpot experimental miscegenation of his creatures, and his emphasis on the flaws and limitations of mechanical reproduction echoes their failure. Our role as embattled meat puppets has seldom been more sadly and humorously illustrated.
MARK RYDEN: BLOOD: MINIATURE PAINTINGS OF SORROW AND FEAR | At Earl McGrath Gallery, 454 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-4257 | Through May 10
JONATHON ROSEN: THE BIRTH OF MACHINE CONSCIOUSNESS | At La Luz de Jesus Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 666-7667 | Through April 27