Review of Jason Byers’ Life is a Pigsty


Life is a Pigsty

In 1975, Susan Rothenberg started painting horses. In that adamantly conceptual era, she was viewed as an aesthetic apostate — until others followed suit. Today we have a freer, less dogmatic attitude, and Jason Byers chooses, playfully, to paint isolated objects against closely hued hard-edged vertical stripes: in the past, a hamburger, an ice cream cone, a baseball bat, and a bicycle; for Life is a Pigsty, he has picked a rat, a cow, a donkey, and a pig. The colored stripes suggest 1950s commercial signage, but the animals, which seem to float just above the substrate, are detailed and realistic, with their sepia tones connoting scientific illustration. Each panel is surrounded by smaller square-format stripe paintings, sans critters. Byers, a musician as well, borrows titles from the Smiths (e.g., “You’re the One for Me, Fatty”). Beautifully crafted, eccentric, and humorous works. Through July 7 at the Compound Gallery (6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland). or 510-665-9019.

Time & Date: June 18-July 7

— By DeWitt Cheng