On any given month, a drink at 111 Minna will tease your senses with a delicious burn of the dark and quirky. However, if you want something smooth to swallow, try the alcohol. It’s with a taste for the surreal, that Minna has presented art goers with a curatorial slant that calls to the twisted, the weird, and the eccentric. Naturally, being a fan of strange and unusual things, I like this. I even stick around for a shot of Vodka, if it’s the weekend.

Recently, however, 111 Minna has given us something special. “Lethal Injection” appears to be a running commentary between four artists, Robert Bowen, Isaac Pierro, Nicolas Giraud, and Philip Lawson, with a special appearance by portrait photographers Ransom & Mitchell, who physically created the worlds of these artists in order to photograph them inside of it. It’s a spicy mixture of evil critters and “holy shit”.

It’s through a pretense of tongue-in-cheek humor that Lethal Injection connects on a deeper level. In a very real way, this show expresses concern for our society, and it’s a Low-Brow look at issues that weigh on our collective consciousness. Take Philip Lawson’s “Weapons of Light”, for example. Resin cast rifles that, literally, light up, each AK47 is named for one of the seven virtues: Forgiveness, Fortitude, Gentleness, Prudence, Charity, Faith, and Justice. The titles are, in no way, sarcastic, and each is meant to spin a more positive viewpoint of weaponry. No matter what your beliefs are, good timing cannot be argued. These pieces are presented at a moment when our society is further debating the issue of gun control.

Continued examination of the show pulls forward the paintings of pop surrealist Robert Bowen, who’s work often balances delicately between dark humor, and an underlying cynicism of religious, and cultural icons. It is the humor of these finely rendered oil paintings that relieve the tension we may sometimes feel, and, depending on the character depicted within each piece, the loss of a belief we may be projecting onto it. It’s work like Bowen’s that churn in your subconscious and unfold layers over time, asking you where you come from, and what icons you, as an individual, are most attached to. I can imagine how the works may grow as a viewer’s own opinions and sentiment expand over the years. In this way, the paintings are highly personal, not only to the artist, but to collectors.

If you need additional proof that Lethal Injection is a thoughtful show, we also have the works of Isaac Pierro and Nicolas Giraud, better known as 100taur. Giraud’s work compliments Bowen’s perfectly, riding the themes of pop, monsters, and religion. Despite the geographical distance separating these artists, Giraud being from France and Bowen from San Francisco, their work has a distinct commonality of thought, if not universal experience.

Of course, both artists are a perfect fit for team Ransom & Mitchell’s series of cinematic, artist-portrait photographs; the team likes to walk on the dark side. In Lethal Injection, their portraits are displayed among the paintings of the artists they portray. Although, it must be noted, that each portrait is, in itself, an artwork brought into being through a usually rigid medium. Each is a carefully orchestrated, multimedia production of creative energy, from set design, to make-up, lighting, and special effects. I relate it to a cool pairing of wine and cheese between all artists involved, and I applaud the collaboration between them.

Isaac Pierro’s large, illustrative paintings join the fold through colorful stylization, as well as its biographical nature. His work may best relate to Philip Lawson’s as both seem to come from a more literal place. Each painting is accompanied by an artist statement that reveals the artist’s life in a conversational way. There is no pretentiousness within the work at any level, and it’s genuine approach is much appreciated, if not, considered to be a rare quality in art.

I want to thank ArtPoint for inviting me to Lethal Injection’s private viewing and live artist talk; it was a great opportunity to gain insight into the worlds of these artists. ArtPoint does a great service for our community in its work to educate the public, and to highlight artists who rank among the most passionate. If you have a chance to catch an opening preview with ArtPoint, it is highly recommended.

– photos and review by Megan Wolfe for Warholian

(In addition to occasionally donating her literary and photographic talents to Warholian, Megan Wolfe is also a successful San Francisco/Oakland based artist.   Check out her work here:  http://megwolfe.net)

For more info on 111 Minna Gallery or Lethal Injection, visit:  http://www.111minnagallery.com/2012/lethal-injection-august/