Graffiti rules, for father and son

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Graffiti rules, for father and son
Generation & Progeny

Through May 2 at Creative Spirit Art Gallery,
820-A Lake Baldwin Lane
407-898-8343; free

The funny thing about Generation & Progeny, the small but pithy collection of works by Robin Van Arsdol and Jaeger Van Arsdol, isn't that its big, messy canvases and hard-edged sculptures look at home in a gallery.

It's that in this impromptu art space, the double-duty warehouse-like lobby of the Harwood-Watson dance studio, home of Creative Spirit Art Gallery, the Van Arsdols' work not only fits in but also manages to comment sharply on more conventional art.

True, works by Robin Van Arsdol — RV to the art community since the '80s, especially the more underground scene — were made for outdoor sites. Stemming from his days in the New York graffiti scene, the show's pieces include wood and welded-metal sculptures of such RV icons as fishes, their mouths gaping, fighter jets, cookie-cutter flowers and, always, his cartoon-like humanoid, complete with spiked hair and fried-egg eyes.

And, typically, those figures are shown with characteristic RV energy — harsh outlines make the forms in "Metal Tulips" stand out against their flat, Pepto-Bismol—pink ground, and small black figures appear pasted on a rough, loosely worked green field in "Bad Jets," the silvery-white jet at their center.

Nothing could be more emphatic than "Screaming Man," RV's characteristic human crudely carved in a log, splinters left in place. His face, dark blue with a light-blue mask over his side-by-side black eyes, is defined by a gaping gouge of a mouth, hacked out and painted black. As tightly wound as the classic expression of angst, Munch's "The Scream," RV's "Screaming Man" adds a new dimension with its shrill, super blend of cartoon and cool irony.

All of that is what fans expect of RV, and even in the small space that opens onto a dance studio it's there: in your face, but softened by the show's other element — works that show Robin and his 15-year-old son, Jaeger, working side by side on a single canvas, and those that show Jaeger soloing. RV is clearly the master of the medium he has made his own; Jaeger, interestingly, is still on his way somewhere.

Works like "Red Road," a stormy abstraction, hint at a more traditional style for Jaeger, as do his jazzy, gestural contributions to "Abstract Fishies," the blood-red blotches between typical RV sharks that give the painting its two-pronged title. But in a small series, each featuring a fashionably fat graffiti tag — "Jer" — something else is suggested. Jaeger, precocious because of his lifelong exposure to his father's keynote style, has mastered the past and is on his way.

That makes Generation & Progeny surprisingly profound, given its obvious tongue-in-cheek art. Robin, still turning out jets, tulips, voracious "fishies" and a man who is half—Bart Simpson and half-ghoul, becomes the launch pad for Jaeger: giving him a solid platform, sharing a canvas and then, in a virtuosic gesture, letting go.

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