Scarlet Cheng’s review of Santa Monica Exhibit

Carole Bayer Sager’s “New Works” is a joyous exhibition, a visually luscious celebration of all the snack foods you love to eat – but probably shouldn’t. Things like peanuts, popcorn (caramel and plain), ice cream, and peanut butter and jelly. Of course, Sager is better known as a song-writing maven with a career that has spanned decades. Her lyrics have been sung by everyone from Petula Clark to Sonny and Cher to Dionne Warwick. Five years ago, she took up the paintbrush, and she’s been going at it feverishly ever since. She has done portraiture, but it seems to me these hyper-real still-lifes are her passion.

Ranging in size from medium to large (up to 7 feet tall), these paintings show her experimenting with color, composition, and texture. In “Portrait of Two Popcorn,” she features two popped kernels on a black background, and adeptly puts in a bit of ghostly reflection on the surface upon which they are sitting. In “Popping” dozens of kernels are caught suspended in midair, again with a black background, as if they were flying through deep space. “Big Pop” depicts popcorn as if you were looking into a bowl of the stuff, successfully creating a sense of depth and three-dimensionality through composition and color values, and the saucy addition of blues and purples.

Sager instinctively knows how our cravings get triggered – we love the promise of sweet, gooey things with contrasting textures and golden colors. “Global Warming” is a close-up of a ball of vanilla ice cream sitting on a thick cookie and covered with gooey, dripping-down hot fudge. There are bumps of peanuts underneath that chocolate coating. As you take a bite (in your mind) you can savor the warm and cool. Another spellbinder is “Drippy” with its layers of crunchy peanut butter, grapey red jelly, and biscuits. On the right, one giant drip of jelly is cascading down the side, and the crumbs in the biscuit are so beautifully painted, you can feel them rolling around on your tongue (William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica).

Scarlet Cheng From ArtScene

Carole Bayer Sager