"Before I Hide Away" is painter Brandi Milner's third solo show with high-brow/low-brow art emporium Corey Helford Gallery, and it's a weird one even by Pop Surrealism standards. Describing the new body of work as "a circus in the snow," Milne is using a more reserved palette and less hyper-realistic kind of image than in previous shows, for the sake of a more pensive and emotionally intuitive storyline. But her instinct for the fun-house poetics of distorted figures, topsy-turvy scale, obscure settings and quirky allegory is still very much in evidence. She's adding a deeply personal touch to her popular mix of dreamtime wonderland and is consciously coming out of her comfort zone. Her stories of friendships ending and other personal melancholies that come with simply getting older resonate with a young-adult fairy-tale quality that her fans are mad for, even as she makes a conscious choice to privilege the Surrealism over the Pop and challenges herself to evolve. Demonstrating the visual influences of art giants like Dali and de Chirico, while remaining firmly on the side of contemporary urban romanticism, Milner's work gets introspective and open-minded at the same time, adding heart to the brain and beauty circus. Corey Helford Gallery, 8522 Washington Blvd., Culver City; thru Sept. 5; free. (310) 287-2340, coreyhelfordgallery.com.
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: Aug. 11. Continues through Sept. 5, 2012