Airborne, Grounded and a Polar Bear

Innocents in danger
Airborne, Grounded and a Polar Bear
Through Dec. 31 at Juicy Temples/Shoot
1807 E. Winter Park Road

The menacing black eyes of the polar bear look up into the sky in Andrew White's painting on display in the impromptu gallery at the back of Juicy Temples/Shoot graphic design shop (across from Stardust Video & Coffee). The crowd need not fear becoming the bear's cuisine; it is likely those tasty bunnies typically painted by the local artist that he is after. White's solo exhibition is a reprise of his 2007 rabbit series, advancing plush-toy vulnerability to new levels, yet they never quite get eaten. Instead, the furballs return, personifying alienation and disintegration of the ego, bending surrealism, Hitchcock-like, into a dark storyline about innocence in a dangerous world.

"When asked to explore this theme again, a number of things happened," says White. "The rabbit recalls a childhood game of throwing the toy up in the air and concentrating on its form as it reached the cusp at the top." White, an accomplished artist and designer, began exaggerating the rabbits' extremities, and the various "cusp" poses now take on moods of fear, ecstasy and delight. White organized the show as a narrative, depicting the brutal landing within a Giorgio de Chirico—like void. After the landing, an occluded dawn presages further dangers in the day ahead.

The rabbits, once so faithfully rendered by White, read now almost symbolically, and their exaggerated limbs and translucency suggest a Zen-like blending into their environment, a sense of acceptance at the loss of control over their fates. Surely these rabbits connect with many today; the genius of White's beautifully rendered, deep blue skies and luminous dark nights is that the background strongly comes forth. De-emphasizing the object, or sublimating the ego of the bunny, leads White to consider greater things.

Like Alfred Hitchcock, White is good at suggesting mystery and danger with a minimum of special effects, and relies on timing and good acting to convey the message. As in the classic 1963 film The Birds, the gory beak-into-flesh scene never comes, but the mind paints a picture much worse than anything a moviemaker could depict.

Here, one longs to see a good bear-mauling, fluff flying everywhere. Yet it never comes, and the lack of a climax may dilute the potency of this toy's message somewhat. The rabbit prefers alienated solitude, forever passive, awaiting its fate.

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