“Heavy Petting” is not too naughty

Local artist Rob McBroom infuses glam-crystals, childhood nostalgia and a hyper-sexed anthropomorphized pussycat at Fox Tax.

Panel 10 and Panel 11 from Heavy Petting. Materials are acrylic paint and mixed media on canvas. PHOTO COURTESY THE GALLERY AT FOX TAX

“Panel 10” and “Panel 11” from “Heavy Petting.” Materials are acrylic paint and mixed media on canvas. PHOTO COURTESY THE GALLERY AT FOX TAX

by John Sand

LBâÄùHeavy PettingâÄù WHERE: The Gallery at Fox Tax, 503 First Ave. N.E., Mpls. WHEN: Nov. 14 âÄì Dec. 31 Free âÄúThe Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea. In a beautiful pea-green boat,âÄù begins the nonsensical Edward Lear poem âÄúThe Owl and the Pussycat.âÄù LearâÄôs work has become iconic of nonsense art, later converted into a slew of childrenâÄôs books. A comedy film starring Barbra Streisand even borrowed the title of the poem. The lyrics tell the tale of the feline and fowl traveling together, which finally ends in wedded bliss. Local artist Rob McBroom has reframed LearâÄôs famous poem again as a glam-rock, product placement painting extravaganza in the new exhibition âÄúHeavy PettingâÄù at The Gallery at Fox Tax. The glittering paintings feature a voluptuous bikini-clad pussycat pursued by a homely, expeditionary owl. McBroom doesnâÄôt quite remember when he first encountered âÄúThe Owl and the Pussycat,âÄù but after his idea for the series of paintings, his mother reminded him it was one of the first books he learned to read. The book he owned was actually a series of photocopies given to him by his aunt. The bedazzling set of works is composed mainly of corporate and local logos, from Motorola and NBC to GrumpyâÄôs and The Bulldog Northeast . In one frame, a pigâÄôs ear is the trucker icon mudflap girl, while the catâÄôs three eyes are drawn from packets of Orbit gum. âÄúI pick up on things I like,âÄù says McBroom, âÄúthis turned out to be very Twin Cities-centric.âÄù In addition to the hundreds of logos, the pieces all contain a found object disguised among the landscape. âÄúI want to see how well I could hide these things,âÄù he says. The objects span from found pens to personal mementos. McBroom has even hidden a pair of his old Calvin Klein boxer briefs in the first panel, âÄúPea Green Boat.âÄù Other incorporated objects are a plastic banana, an old Super Nintendo game cartridge, a rubber Louisiana refrigerator magnet and even PrinceâÄôs spin-off band THE TIMEâÄôs first LP , which was originally a present to an ex-girlfriend. âÄúHeavy PettingâÄù is an exercise in the personalization of art. To some, the story represents childhood years, while others are unable to connect with the nonsense. The recognition of logos depends solely on personal experience of each specific viewer (and corporate marketing tactics, perhaps). Those who have seen the deceased television series âÄúArrested DevelopmentâÄù will recognize G.O.B.âÄôs Segway-mounted cartoon Mr. Bananagrabber as one of the owlâÄôs wings. The exhibition criticizes itself in playful ways, with McBroomâÄôs drawn-in jabs at his own work, especially in a frame that features the line, âÄúThey sailed away, for a year and a day, To the land where the Bong-tree grows.âÄù Small characters in the periphery comment lewdly on McBroomâÄôs possibly juvenile decision to include a set of trees actually composed of bongs. As he explains it, âÄúYou have to acknowledge these things and then make fun of them.âÄù With work so subtle and intricately designed, itâÄôs difficult to see where this work production even begins. McBroom says, âÄúWhen I start, I know how I want it to look, but IâÄôm not sure if I will have all of the tying pieces.âÄù His logo inspiration comes from everywhere. McBroom has about 2,600 logos stored on his computer, and he gets them from everywhere. âÄúIâÄôm always writing on my hands so I can remember [the logos] and look them up later,âÄù McBroom said. âÄúI like to include [symbols] that are graphically pleasing but not super complicated.âÄù Littered with pop culture references, pro-sports team mascots and even a bastardized version of the Mensa logo, âÄúHeavy PettingâÄù hails the Fox Tax with just the right amount of gorging pigs and oversexed pussycats.