CULTURE- ART FEATURE- Pop-op: Robin Campo jokes around

I have a party trick: I can write anyone's name in the script used for Sanskrit and Hindi. Of course, the collection of characters won't mean anything in those languages, but it gives people a laugh.

Robin Campo, a self-titled "mudthologist," also has a trick, which, granted, is more time-consuming and has taken longer to master than mine. He can recreate any object in porcelain– tin cans, Styrofoam cups, antlers, rusty wheels, traffic cones, corn cobs, you name it. Campo then assembles these clay replicas into what initially appear to be found-object sculptures, often resembling teapots gone wacky, packed with puns and visual one-liners.

These ceramic creations, along with Campo's eye-blistering Op-Art-like paintings, are currently on view at the McGuffey Art Center in an exhibition entitled, "FORGET WARHOLe." The show's name– like the titles of Campo's individual pieces– lets viewers know just what they're in for: a lot of pop culture references (repeated a la Warhol) and a lot of smart-ass adolescent humor.

If you ask Campo about his work– or even if you don't– he will talk at length (and then some) about his technique, strategies, and influences, all without cracking a smile– which is nothing short of amazing, given the joke-y nature of his pieces.

For example, the porcelain "Kiddie Porn" features a friendly paint-spattered figure of Mickey Mouse waving hello with his left hand while offering a groin-level bone in his right. Mickey stands on top of a yellow ceramic banana, encircled at one end by a turquoise Fimo-like donut, and everything rests on an oversized purple Fimo-bead pedestal. If you're in touch with your inner 14-year-old, it's funny in the way "homo-erectus" can still make you snort.

Campo's bright acrylic paintings are full of similar wisecracks. Zinging with complementary colors and Escher-like patterning, each piece features three levels of imaging: a dizzying repetitive background, a central figure, and the figure's repetitive fill. In "Bugs," pincer-wielding yellow beetles crawl in vertical columns across a blue background. A large Bugs Bunny stands cringing in the middle, his red and green body crisscrossed by machine guns (Bugsy Siegel, get it?).

Campo admits his artistic approach is strictly mental, involving no inner feeling, which explains why his accomplished technique and smartness in the end yield only winks and nudges. But even if his irreverent comments on pop icons and our throw-way culture lack deeper meaning, they're good for a laugh.

Robin Campo's exhibition, "FORGET WARHOLe," is on display in the main gallery of the McGuffey Art Center through April 30. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.