Hippity Hop Pop


Left: Headwinds, original oil (also available in limited-edition prints).
Right: Polka-Pooka Rabbit Series, painted aluminum.


You can expect that St. Patrick’s Day revelers — wearing glittered-cardboard leprechaun hats with shamrocks, drinking green beer and singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” — will fill the sidewalks and bars of downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter this Friday evening. I will be in the Gaslamp neighborhood myself; but I’ll be enjoying the unexpected: standing amid brightly colored and 8-foot-tall rabbits.

The Chuck Jones Gallery is hosting an artists/opening reception for its Down the Rabbit Hole exhibition — featuring pop paintings, sculptures and prints of funny bunnies created by incredibly talented artists Karen and Tony Barone.

From Palm Springs to Coachella, Karen and Tony are especially well known for their collaborative works, distinctive style and generosity. Their work has been exhibited in multiple galleries, in temporary exhibitions at venues such as UCR Palm Desert, along the El Paseo Boulevard median and at Fashion Week Palm Desert.

First installed and concentrated in the desert, the couple’s R. Hero project began with permanent installations of their 6-foot-tall, brightly painted aluminum sculptures of Dalmations at fire stations. The collection has grown to encompass public libraries and children’s museums in 14 states, as well as in El Salvador and Israel. Every time I leave my Palm Springs home to return to San Diego, I pass by the blue R. Hero in front of Fire Station No. 3. It makes me smile.

Karen and Tony’s creativity and talent extend from architectural design and their illustrative LoveMonsters book to ceramics, painting and sculpture.

On the sculptural front, they have presented the whimsical side of culinary arts with such delights as a 6-foot-2-inch fork shoved into macaroni and cheese, a similarly sized fork on end with a shrimp atop its tines, fast food (burger, hot dog, fries), an ice cream cone and even a butcher’s cleaver. Their repertoire of animal sculptures has primarily focused on cats and dogs of various breeds, but also has notably included gorillas. Rabbits are the most recent “theme” they have embraced. Over the 2016 year-end holidays, I viewed a video showing their playful, long-eared subjects in a window display at The Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage.

Always armed with a bon mot, Karen and Tony title their works in the same tongue-in-cheek fashion as they employ in the works themselves. In the Polka-Pooka paintings, the rabbits are surrounded by nonsensical objects (e.g., high-heeled shoes, sandwiches or cheese graters). As Tony explains it, “We refer to these illogically placed objects as ‘ready-mades’ — a wink and a nod to the French-born American surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp.” 

If you really feel compelled to drink green beer this Friday, go ahead. But at least pop (or hop) into the Chuck Jones Gallery and pre-celebrate Easter. I guarantee you will enjoy meeting Karen and Tony Barone during the 5-to-8-p.m. artists reception. The gallery is dangling the metaphorical carrot by promising a 6 p.m. unveiling of a work “featuring the world’s most famous wabbit.”

Down the Rabbit Hole runs March 14 through April 13 at the Chuck Jones Gallery, 232 5th Avenue. Information: 619-294-9880.


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