The Tranquil Trickster

Message by Neal Crosbie. At Art Resources. Shows through June 21.

Neal Crosbie's "Self Portrait #52" (2008).

The star of Neal Crosbie’s new show at Art Resources isn’t the artist himself. It’s the “coyote-guy,” so dubbed by Barry Spacks, ex-Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, in the wall text introducing the show. With his trapezoidal head, long snout, and stick limbs, the coyote-guy roams through fields of color, finding himself in situations involving trees, clouds, arrows, Mount Fuji, and a canoe. His travels also take him from medium to medium, from nearly wall-height canvases to newsprint to scraps of paper torn from spiral notebooks. He visits settings built from clear lines and simple figures, and he drops in on jittery clusters of swirls and splotches.

It’s all the same to him. The coyote-guy maintains a sort of Buddhist equanimity, rarely thrown off balance by his bizarre world. Given Crosbie’s regular contributions to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the Zen vibe is no surprise. Whether uttered by the coyote-guy himself, scrawled in the corner of the image in an unsettling hand that resembles a scattering of twigs, or assembled out of cutouts from magazines, sayings reminiscent of the Buddha-or perhaps Yogi Berra-pepper the show. These little phrases either sound like they make more sense than they actually do, or actually make more sense than they sound like they do. With the very best, it’s tough to tell which is which. “Don’t follow me-I’m already here,” utters the coyote-guy, expressionless.

Santa Barbarans may already know Crosbie from his previously shown artwork. Maybe they’ll know him from his recent collection of poetry: Everything Be OK, a compilation of his words as reenacted by the coyote-guy in a not-quite-comic-book format. Or maybe they’ll know him from his music, a newly recorded album of which provides this show’s sonic backdrop. Still others may know him from his culinary efforts: He’s the proprietor and chef of Blue Agave on Cota Street.

Crosbie possesses an admirable devotion to personal creative diversity, especially on display at the intersection of his visual and musical enterprises. As a food fan, here’s hoping that his next show includes some kind of gastronomical angle, but judging by the elements of his personality visible in the domain of the coyote-guy, he’s not that predictable.

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