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Breathing Space is an installation that presents evidence of the classical alchemical elements of earth, air, fire and water in artful configurations on the walls, floor and on TV monitors. There is no flight of fancy or New Age mysticism here, just raw and rugged presences--for example, gleaming piles of red and yellow iron oxide both illustrate and are earth as the product of fire. Changing photo images of mouths forming elementary syllables are seen in a middle room, together with a taped soundtrack referring to how breath (air) creates communication. Other slides and out-of-synch text invoke the trickiness of memory. Many exhibitions lay claim to a "conceptual" content, reifying mental function. Artist Lothar Schmitz, with additional collaborative installations from Deanne Belinoff and Sylvia Bock, and Stuart Bender and Angelo Funicelli, succeeds in using mind as an element of art and nature (SITE, Downtown).

Don Bachardy, "Christopher Isherwood", acrylic on paper, 1983.

Don Bachardy is our leading portraitist. His oeuvre ranges from precise fastidious graphite images, to Zen-like ink renderings, to exuberant acrylics of day-glo intensity. Whether they whisper or shout, his images are compellingly direct responses to his sitters. This show surveys his work through 1990 and includes, among numerous portrayals of the famous and near famous, several portraits of the late writer and Bachardy's longtime partner Christopher Isherwood (Lizardi/Harp Gallery, West Hollywood).

James Fee, "Untitled, Baton Rouge Louisiana, toned gelatin silver print, 18 x 19", 1982.

The four artists shown side-by-side here enhance one another. Robert Flynt's grainy and murkey photographs depict bodies that seem to be floating in an underwater space. His ephemeral images relate to Edmund Teske's abstract manipulations of the photographic medium. James Fee's black and white images depict America as a dark and sombre place. His unpopulated square images of building fragments and other pieces of daily life are manipulated to enhance the shadows, giving his photographs a timeless feeling. John Huggins' color photographs of road kills may be hard to look at initially, but these studies of decay are both fascinating and enigmatic (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).
The figures--all male--in Mary Ann Luera's paintings are saintly, with their smooth skin, bare, hairless chests and red & purple robes. Like calla lilies, birds, red poppies and other examples from nature, Luera's men are symbolic, not literal figures. Even in paintings with more than one figure, such as Closing Distance #1, the second figure appears to be an alter ego, a conscience or a reflective consciousness, rather than another individual. It is the interior life (also a title here, Vida Interior), not physical beings, that Luera presents (Simayspace Gallery, San Diego).

Macduff Everton, "Kirkby Pool", Lake District, 1986.

Santa Barbara-based Macduff Everton is justly famed for his panoramic color photographs. Playing subtly with lateral composition and heightening atmosphere with the deep, saturated color of the chromogenic dye coupler, Everton creates spaces which exert a powerful inward draw without losing the grandeur of the sweep. He shoots everywhere from Joshua Tree and Mono Lake to the Chilean Lake District and Scottish isles. What makes Everton's work so much more than poster art? His ability to orchestrate what he sees into images that embrace, not just recapitulate, space (Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica).
One of the last hurrahs of the illuminated manuscript was sounded by the large volumes that served Western European church choirs (mostly in cloisters) from the 13th-16th centuries. Containing both texts and music, weaving and counterposing the distinctive calligraphies of both, the antiphonals and graduals included in Illuminated Choirs Books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are not quite as splendid as the best known illuminated tomes. But between their notational intricacy and their bursts of astounding illumination, such choir books fairly embrace the eye (J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu).

Bill Barminski, "Untitled", enamel on canvas, 4 x 3", 1985.

Bill Barminski's new paintings continue his fascination with consumer culture and desire. Layers of paint and text fill canvases that make the viewing of each like going on a treasure hunt, where information and images need to be deciphered along the way to figure out where to go next. When seen together these puzzle-like works inform each other and articulate Barminski's view of the world. To further understand the paintings one can watch and play an accompanying CD-ROM. In it Barminski weaves still and video images as well as interviews with and about himself into a fascinating package. The artist is able to explore two very different mediums at once--paintings and computer technology--to successfully integrate both (Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica).
The four artists in Sleeper, for their different approaches, share a common reference. Robert Gober's cribs, stark and empty, have a conceptual bent. Ghost and Pool of Blood, Katharina Fritsch's treatment of a nightmarishly horrific subject, feels overly sanatized. The grittier pieces--Guillermo Kuitca's stained and map-painted beds, and Doris Salcedo's installations that refer to the violence and resulting pain in her native Colombia--are powerful. Salcedo, in works such as her Untitled folded and stacked white shirts with a spike piercing them, manages to speak to all of us (Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Downtown).
Floored is a carefully curated and impeccably installed selection of works from the Foundation's soon-to-be-dismantled collection. Joel Shapiro's carved stone sculptures are like melons casually placed on the ground. Jackie Ferrara's cotton batting sculptures are towers that rise up from the floor. Works by Eva Hesse, Lynda Benglis and Donald Judd are exceptional as well, and fine to see after having disappeared from view years ago--perhaps never to be seen together like this again (Lannan Foundation, West Side).
Pop isn't just Pop anymore. You'd expect a Whole Lotta Pop to have its Warhols and its Lichtensteins (a killer pyramid painting). You might not be too surprised to see a Keith Haring or two in the mix. But a Philip Guston? The Guston's no masterpiece, but it's cute, and in its own way it is poppish. Whole Lotta Pop is more than a back-room gallimaufry; with the Kantor family's back-room brawn behind it, it's a tasty sampling of vernacular-driven art (Kantor Gallery, West Hollywood).
20th Century Masterworks by African-Americans, organized by the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York, focuses on American modernists of African extraction. Beyond its basic argument that there were a goodly number of African-Americans participating in their country's avant garde, this uneven collection serves mostly to spotlight certain individual talents--abstract expressionists Norman Lewis and Hale Woodruff, quasi-expressionist Henry Ossawa Tanner--and argue for their wider exposure beyond the color line (Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach).
No photographs, no prints, no slides (no matter how high their quality) prepare you for the brilliant colors that resonate from the walls in the Vasily Kandinsky exhibition. They radiate with an inner light all their own. This is the first exhibit to bring together all of the extant Composition series paintings, together with companion sketches and studies (most of which are seen here for the first time in America). These brilliantly conceived works, which are among Kandinsky's largest and most significant creations, emphasize the process of pure painting and the emotional joy of color, form, symbol and movement so well that they fairly sing from the canvas. This is one of the Summer's highlight exhibitions (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).