While Mick Jagger cautioned listeners that \"you can\'t always get what you want,\" Bay Area-based artist James Gobel\'s recent exhibition gleefully proclaimed his satisfaction: \"I Get What I Want and I Always Get It Again!\" Gobel is known for his evocative portraits of burly, hirsute guys in romantic environments done in the unique medium of felt marquetry, combined with collage and acrylic paint. (Marquetry, more commonly found using wood veneer, is a form of surface decoration where many small pieces are fit together to create a design.) For this exhibition, Gobel\'s retinue of bearded, husky models were cast in the roles of rock stars.
I Don\'t Know if I Am Coming or Going presents a blonde-haired, blue-eyed singer wearing a lime green, cadmium yellow and fuchsia jacket over a checkered ensemble. Rhinestones add an element of glam. Spiky white shapes in the jacket\'s collar echo the waves of the figureÕs hair, their curvilinear rhythms suggesting the baroque/deco influence of Aubrey Beardsley\'s turn-of-the-20th-century celebrations of decadence. Diagonal arrangements of white spotlights evoke the performing arena, a pair of criss-crossing mikes pointing hither and yon suggesting the directional quandary, while various interpretations of the words \"come\" and \"go\" add another layer of meaning. Media Blitz and I Know I\'ve Got a Lot to Fear present a darker message, one where risk and mortality push to the forefront. In the first, a microphone thrusts at a perky angle off the singer\'s right thigh; his t-shirt, portraying a skeleton biker, is emblazoned with \"GERMS\" while in the latter, a freckle-faced performer in a pink and white fedora appears pensive--a prominent dark spot on his face disturbs. In addition to the wall-mounted works, Gobel presents five sculptural pieces--felt beanbag chairs sewn in lively DayGlo plaid wool. These assertive orbs invite us to sit--although we mustn\'t--which is a bit of a tease.
Gobel champions the flamboyant and fun-loving aspects of gay culture, with a decided wistfulness for the pre-AIDS era of unbridled excess. His rock stars perhaps don\'t quite fit the usual mold, but are powerful and seductive icons, their self-confidence and attitude, along with glam attire, making us instant fans. We may emerge from this exhibition with a feeling of guilty pleasure--a little over-stimulated and woozy. I imagine Gobel would approve.