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Review: Burn 353 slaps childhood with irony at Hoffman-LaChance

Frienemies Diptch
Provided by Hoffman-Lachance Gallery
Frienemies Diptch

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon - The artist known as Burn 353 adheres clean, black and white, stencil paintings to collaged canvases. His stencil paintings feature characters that come from vintage pop culture. Classic features from Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny are scrambled to create something recognizable from childhood, but off. The most off part of these little cartoon demons is their missing, dripping, bottom jaws.

The chin and bottom lipless animation characters are tortured in other ways. Some are tied to ropes and stretched until quartered. Others are hung. The cause of their suffering is not identified -- though there does seem to be a mildly religious theme to the pain. It is not even certain if they are the victims or perpetrators of some of the violent acts depicted, as in the Frienemies Diptch, in which one character hangs by the neck while the other holds himself up by grasping his rope. Gruesome mischief is at play.

The black and white figures that Burn 353 makes the center focus of his artwork are a formalized reminder of the graffiti art he once sprayed on walls. Many of the figures are laid upon vintage comic strip collage, which works to form its own oddly cohesive narrative. Here, again, there is nostalgia arranged as something darker.

The sophisticated layout of Burn 353’s artwork gives his design background away. The multimedia work is clever and surprising, with fun word and image play. The spray-painted canvases signal the 1980s just as clearly as the comics that come from that decade. It is easy to imagine Burn 353’s artwork on a skateboard, surfboard or wall. For now, it looks pretty “skeg” (which I’ll hope reads as “rad”) forming the exhibit, Iconic Apocalypse, that hangs for another week at the Hoffman LaChance Gallery in Maplewood.