Jesse Hazelip at Jonathan Levine Gallery

Jonathan Levine Gallery has organized two very provocative exhibitions to kick off 2014. In his solo show, "Love Lock: Cycle of Violence," artist Jess Hazelip sets out to reveal injustices in our legal system with a focus on the prison system. The artist's symbolic use of animals is solid and effective.  For example, he uses the vulture, which preys on the weak and disadvantaged, to represent the prison system as a whole. This is an issue Hazelip takes very seriously - he had a mock prison cell built in the gallery where he will reside for 3 "visitation" times when visitors can meet and talk with him. Taking the performance element of the project to an even higher level, Hazelip shaved his head and eyebrows for 3 new tattoos. A snake eating it's own tail on the back of his head alludes to the cycle of violence in the prison system. The words "Love" and "Lock" on his eyebrows were motivated by a prison of the same name in Nevada.

The group show "Based on Actual Events" features artists Alyssa Monks, Diego Koi, Eloy Morales, and Joel Rea. The works on view were brought together because each uniquely explores contemporary realism. Bringing to mind the portraits of Chuck Close, Eloy Morales hyperrealist portraits are staggeringly lifelike. One may understand them to be photographs rather than paintings created by an artist's hands.  Alyssa Monks paints so close to reality that we sense the heat, steam, and moisture engulfing her showering subjects.  Joel Rea merges hyperrealism with surrealism to make dreamscapes, which are crystal clear in detail, but ambiguous in meaning.