COURTESY FOULADI PROJECTSContemporary British artist Damien Hirst is among the subjects of whimsical new works by Laurina Paperina on view at Fouladi Projects.

Laurina Paperina portraits skewer pop culture

A native of Italy and a believer in levity, Laurina Paperina pokes fun at famous figures, bringing them down to size, and even imagining their demise, in her drawings and installations. She takes special aim at art-world giants, pop-culture stars and superheroes in a new multimedia series. The exhibition, “Proud to Be a Hero,” runs through Oct. 18 at Fouladi Projects in San Francisco.

Paperina has stated that she “doesn’t want to make serious art” and would rather make viewers smile, and the approximately three dozen works in the show, all featuring her rough cartoonish style, bear out that aim.

New “balloon” portraits by the artist, each 20 to 30 inches, make up part of the exhibit. Paperina deflates the mighty by depicting big-name artists and other notables as unglamorous bodies with balloons for heads in these works of digital drawing and photography. On the balloons and elsewhere in the compositions, Paperina has drawn elements that reflect the technique and persona of her subjects.

A balloon inspired by Banksy features a rat suggesting the one drawn by the famed graffiti and political artist. A “Damien Hirst” balloon contains multicolored dots, a la the contemporary artist’s spot paintings. A skull a shark, and other imagery associated with Hirst also appear in the picture. Paperina demonstrates a particularly wicked streak in an assortment of drawings and paintings, 24 by 30 inches or smaller, in which she brings down celebrities, sometimes lethally, by means that involve their claims to fame. As for the motive behind this mix of mirth and mayhem, a combination of artist jealousy and warped affection might be to blame.

Ronnie Cutrone, whose subjects included Woody Woodpecker, is attacked by the avian cartoon character in one such work. Other doomed artists include Mike Kelley, strangled by his toy pink snake, and Takashi Murakami, chomped by a trio of his smiling flowers.

Speedy Gonzales lands in a mousetrap.

Miley Cyrus gets whacked by a wrecking ball.

Spider-Man, Batman, Homer Simpson, Ai Weiwei, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Renaissance masters, and Paperina herself (one of her childish gestures goes dreadfully wrong) also get the skewer. The exhibit additionally includes one large work: a huge raccoon painted by Paperina on the gallery wall.

Paperina began drawing while growing up in a small Italian town, where comic books and cartoons inspired her art. Her pseudonymous name translates as Little Laura Little Duck – an alter ego she has described as a faux superhero with duck feet. She has exhibited her work in museums, galleries and public spaces in Europe, the U.S., Mexico, China, Israel and South Africa.

IF YOU GO

Proud to Be a Hero

New work by Laurina Paperina

Where: Fouladi Projects, 1803 Market St., S.F.

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes Oct. 18

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 621-2535, www.fouladiprojects.com

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