by Liberty Finch
Attention citizens! Still stinging from Election Day? Seeing red? Feeling blue? Do yourself a favor and see this amazing show at Ox-Op, where girls swing with orangutans and meat hovers dreamily above a Russian landscape.
The Ox-Op Gallery, located behind the Washington Avenue Grumpy's Bar, is the
venue for underground art exhibits. From famed one-namers like Coop, Shag and
Dalek to favorites Mark Mothersbaugh and Shepard Fairey, Ox-Op gets the shows
most likely to draw hipsters and geeks alike. Like Juxtapoz art magazine come
to life, the gallery always delivers a punchy array of cult artists, and the current
exhibit is no exception.
Kayukawa hails from Sapporo, Japan. Her work—acrylic on illustration board—is
so meticulously rendered that it’s impossible to discern a brush stroke.
She paints over the board three times with each color and the results are breathtaking
perfection. Her subjects are young, fashionable women, often painted with animals
and flowers. The figures are both innocent and coquettish at the same time. Pale
rosebud cheeks, full pink lips and long black hair adorn each girl. Some works
are passive, relaxed: a girl decked out in a white fur suit reclines with a polar
bear; a lass in a white T-shirt and black miniskirt sits half-coiled next to a
panda. The figures stare out dreamily at the viewer, making eye contact and drawing
you into their world. In other paintings, the women are active—like the
girl with drum sticks raised high above her head, a tiger crouched at her side;
or the young woman swinging nearly upside down, baby orangutans clinging to her
Her characters are a fusion of subtlety and strength. Unlike some underground
and anime artists, she doesn’t hit you over the head with exaggerated aspects
of the feminine physique in order to convey sexuality. No giant googley eyes and
supersized breasts here. Kayukawa’s women are confident and delicately sensual—the
perfect blend of tough and sweet.
From another corner of the globe, Russia, comes Oksana Badrak. Born in Moscow
in 1978, Badrak moved to California with her parents in 1993. She attended the
prestigious ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena and studied with a professor
who specialized in the restoration of classic oil paintings. It’s a medium
that Badrak has adopted for herself. Her work is inspired by a range of experiences—from
an Asian supermarket to the Southern California desert. She melds pop-culture
icons with organic elements, blending the surreal and the mundane. From a narrative
perspective, the images are at odds, but they’re painted with such conviction
that we accept the compositions as true.
Three white rabbits (rendered so precisely they almost look photographed) are
nestled on a sofa, as swirling blue cartoon waves lap at their feet; three deer
engage in a humping menage-a-tois. Badrak’s style is unique, her technique
rich and her work captivating.
Artistically, the styles of Kayukawa and Badrak are very different. But both women
mix elements of reality and fantasy in ways that stir the imagination. Suspend
disbelief and treat yourself to some sweet, sweet eye candy. ||
The work of Yumiko Kayukawa and Oksana Badrak runs through Nov. 30 at
Ox-Op Gallery, 1111 Washington Ave. S., Mpls. 612-259-0085. Open Tue.–Sat.,
4–8 p.m.; Sat. 1–5 p.m. and by appointment.