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The Prince man

Troy Gua's “SMÖRGÅSBORD” at Feast Art Center

“Le Petit Prince,” video and book by Troy Gua. Photo courtesy Feast Art Center

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In the art of Troy Gua, we see the reincarnation of the minds of Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp. His art is conceptual, brilliant, funny, and drawn/painted/built with exquisite craftsmanship.

He is famous regionally, and should be famous nationally and even internationally, for his pop hybrid portraits of celebrities and for his series of hand-made dolls, books and videos for the artist formerly and forever known as Prince.

The pop hybrid portraits are portraits of famous people painted in a pop art fashion much like Warhol's famous portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and others. They are more precisely painted than Warhol's and without his colors printed off-register. The unique character of Gua's portraits is that he typically combines and overlaps two or more portraits in such a way that they might look like one of the subjects and then change in the viewer's eye to the other. Sometimes figuring out who they are is a delectable puzzle. Often he combines people who have things in common, be it a name or profession or other similarities, such as Martin Luther King and Elvis (the King of rock and roll), or computer pioneers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. In reviewing his show at Fulcrum Gallery for this newspaper in 2013, I described his pop hybrids as "slick and polished as custom-made cars and as clever as the most inspired work of a Madison Avenue ad writer." Now they are even more polished. The earlier ones were painted in acrylic on canvas; the new ones are sealed with a resin coating.  

There are two pop hybrids in this show, one of Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein called "The Brains and Beauty (First Try)" and one that is a self-portrait combined with Prince. Which brings us to "Le Petit Prince."

Gua clearly loves Prince. Over the years he has made countless little handmade dolls of Prince and put them in many different settings and made movies and books about him. At one point the rock idol's lawyers hit Gua with a cease-and-desist order.

There is a "Le Petit Prince" corner in the gallery with a video, a book and two Prince-like dolls of Gua and his wife on a couch watching the video. As the pop-hybrid portrait indicates, the Prince and Gua have become so thoroughly associated in his art that it becomes almost impossible to tell them apart.

In addition to these works, there is an intriguing memorial to 9/11 with two blank canvases standing in for the twin towers and a "paper airplane" made of folded canvas flying into one of the towers. There are also a number of pieces that make sly references to art galleries such as "Sold," a red dot on the head of a pin in a white shadow box -- referencing the red dots that are traditionally placed next to artworks in galleries that have sold.

There is also a group of large commercial logos for imaginary companies that are cast in resin and make for stunningly beautiful abstract sculptures and similarly two sets of emojis set as hieroglyphics of the future.

The show is called SMÖRGÅSBORD because it is a mixture of many different works done over a 10-year period. Only a fraction of it is mentioned in this review, and even a smaller fraction is shown at Feast. I highly recommend that you visit the show to see the work in person, and then look the artist up online to see examples of the many varied works he has produced.

"Troy Gua's "SMÖRGÅSBORD,"  noon to 4 p.m., Saturday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunday, and by appointment, through Aug. 11, Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma, feastarts.com 

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