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Some of the Abstract Expressionists made their most cogent statements on a smaller rather than larger scale. Adolph Gottlieb may have been among these. An impressive and delicious compilation of smaller canvases--and a very few works on paper--reveals Gottlieb as a maker of notations, not fields. Whether his early pictographs or his later Suns and Bursts, his images are self-contained and made from what boils down to dots and lines, nothing more. The variations on sky and earth manifested by the later pictures seem more expansive than their larger counterparts! (Manny Silverman Gallery, West Hollywood).

Odd to have an unregenerate Surrealist in our midst; equally odd that he be a Briton, hardly the type you'd associate with the very French, very unstiff-upper-lip movement. But England's boasted it's own Surrealists since the early '30s, and David Banks was turned to the cultivation of irrational imagery by Roland Penrose, the movement's propagator in Albion. Banks has rung many changes on his style, a kind of post-André Masson automatism in which line and blot are the building blocks for whole galaxies of intricate, evasive fantasy. This microspective looks at a few of these changes, collating some very fine paintings in the process (Herbert Palmer Gallery, West Hollywood).

In Objects of the Dealer with Soundtracks and Other New Work, Martin Kersels has transformed everyday objects into something extraordinary. Among the objects on view is a rigged tape dispenser that dispenses sound when the piece of tape is lifted. Kersels is a tinkerer and the maker of kinetic sculpture. This work concerns materials and the process of their creation. They resonate with the pure pleasure of their existence (Dan Bernier Gallery, Santa Monica).

Entering the gallery, at first glance it seems as though there is nothing there. It is only upon close examination of the light hitting the walls that Karin Sander's work appears. Sander has painted and sanded a rectangular shape on two opposing gallery walls. The smooth texture of Sander's work sets it apart from the rest of the wall. The work is subtle to say the least, but subtle as it is, when contemplated and looked at over time the beauty and elegance of the work glistens (Burnett Miller Gallery, Santa Monica).

Mark Niblock-Smith died of AIDS a few years ago, and in this retrospective exhibition we see not work about his impending death, but a celebration of life. Niblock-Smith was a gifted artist who made both intricate objects and powerful roomsized installations. Working against many obstacles, Niblock-Smith continued to produce powerful works until the disease overtook him. Rather than ignore it, he featured it in his work. In one piece he presented row after row of medical detritus--empty bottles and jars from medications he took over the years. This overwhelming display of waste was juxtaposed with a photograph of the artist, in a saint-like pose, unashamed of his thinning body. Entitled Personal Best, this piece confronts mortality, and asserts that no matter what life must go on (Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena).

In Hidden Witness: African Americans in Early Photography photographs dating from 1840-1860 are displayed categorically, each with their accompanying text panel. Images depicting Afro-Americans from this time are scarce and this collection, drawn from the Getty's holdings as well as from the collection of Jackie Napolean Wilson, offers viewers a rare opportunity. In conjunction with this exhibition, the Museum invited contemporary photographer Carrie Mae Weems to comment on the images. The resulting piece, Carrie Mae Weems Reacts to Hidden Witness, is an installation that juxtaposes fragments from the older images with poetic texts that expose racial stereotypes. Weem's goal was to critique photography and the representation of the Afro-American, thus calling into question the broad idea of a photographic truth (J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu).

Manuel Felguerez intersperses recent Mixografia prints with paintings. He is a deft renderer of druming organic abstractions, more refined than American ab-ex but less so than European art informal. They are engaging especially for the wide variation Felguerez is able to create in and among them. He expands this range of variation by adding Mixografia to his repertoire. In the dry, gritty, all-over intaglio quality imparted by the print technique, Felguerez' rich brush is muted and his powerful line emerges even more distinctly than it would if it were simply drawn (The Remba Gallery, West Hollywood).

Although the three concurrent exhibitions at the Santa Monica Museum of Art have little to do with each other, they are all exceptional shows. In the Focus Gallery is Charles Gaines' impressive installation of photographs, Night/Crimes. This installation consists of eight large images. The top half of each piece features a documentary photograph of a crime scene. Beneath this image is a photograph of the night sky. Etched on the glass between the two photographs is a caption that relates the time and the date of the crimes, as well as when the stars will be in that alignment again. This piece calls into question the causes and effects of urban violence. Viewers are asked to consider: is there a pattern? What does the night sky have to do with our actions? In the main gallery space is The World of Jeffery Vallance. This exhibition presents work from the last 15 years and features the infamous Blinky, Vallance's homage to a dead hen. Other work on view includes his Shroud Series, The Eye of the Guadalupe Corridor, The Polynesian Pavilion and The Throne Room. Visitors can tour the show using the handy Visitor's Guide and Map. Vallance's work is both a humorous and critical look at the history of contemporary culture and the roots of collecting. Also on view is Eleanor Antin's Minetta Lane--A Ghost Story a filmic installation that viewers literally enter into and walk through, peering in and out of windows in order to watch the film from different vantage points within a set that depicts a crumbling city. Best known for her postcard series 100 Boots (on view last month at Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica) and her performance work, this is an opportunity to see another facet of this artist's work (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica; Antin's concurrent show at Krull, Santa Monica, closed at the end of May).

Classical elegance, grace and beauty are pervasive characteristics in Karen Brown's paintings. The two themes here--Lot's wife in the act of turning, and checker boards--are on the face of it quite diverse. Both, however, deal with spiritual and physical transformation. Brown's studies of Lot's wife capture the moment of her disastrous metamorphosis from various points of view. She seems to gyrate as her body goes from an airy solidity to the luminous nothingness of white grains of salt. In Brown's hands the simple checkerboard, with its traditional grids, is also transformed. Each square takes on a personality. From a series flat, nondescript areas, they are given pulsating surfaces that at times float in space (Griffin Fine Art, Orange County).

A retrospective orginiated by the Museum of Modern Art in New York demonstrates Cy Twombly's unwavering devotion to Abstract Expressionism in spite of the many influences that have swept through contemporary culture over the past five decades. Gathered are over 100 works dating from, 1946, the largest exhibition by the American expatriot that has been presented in the U.S. By combining fragments of language with abstract gestures, Twombly created a unique way of working. This exhibition features some of the finest examples from his considerable body of work. Loyal to elements of gestural abstraction, action drawing, and personal observation that are totally remote from our media-saturated world, Twombly's grandly scaled sweeps of space and his loose, feathery and poetic paint handling seem properly linked to the rich cultural past of his adopted home, Italy, where he has lived since 1957 (Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

Once Upon a Time features some extraordinarily talented illustrators of classic 19th- and early 20th-century children's literature. All those marvelous drawings that we recall from our favorite fairy tales and nursery rhymes continue to cast their spell as we share them with succeeding generations. This "Golden Age of Illustration" is celebrated side-by-side later works such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh and The Wizard of Oz. Contemporary illustrators aren't overlooked--fans of Maurice Sendak or Scott Gustafson will not be disappointed. On view are books, original art, prints and reproductions (Hippodrome Gallery, Long Beach).

In response to the "Black Male" hoo-ha Raymond Saunders--one of California's premier artists of any color--takes a page out of his own book and assembles American Color, a hodgepodge of a group show that should fall apart. But thanks to the gifts of the artists included, the adventure of discovery (lotta lesser known names here), and wry humor he at least comes up with an impressive sum of parts (if not quite a whole). The humor comes in Saunders' interpretation of "color:" most of the artists here are African-American, and those that aren't (as well as some who are) are colorists of the first order (Louis Stern Gallery, West Hollywood).