Return to Articles


The lead player of the COBRA group of post-war northern European expressionism that emerged forty years ago was Karel Appel. His use of loose and open (and often heavily weighted) gestural marks has always made for pungent paintings that are a bold combination of disarming simple forms akin to young childrens' inventions, and powerfully arranged color compositions that exert a sophisticated graphic presence. In these recent paintings and mixografia paper works the animal image of a wounded horse plays an important role, Also on view is an assemblage, The Cry, made up of varied found objects organized into a cast copper bas-relief (The Remba Gallery, West Hollywood).

John Morgan, "Untitled," with the artist posing.

Works by over 30 self-taught and visionary artists of California are included in Visions from the Left Coast: California Self-Taught and Visionary Artists. The motive for art-making among all of the artists selected by curators Ginny Brush and Fran Puccinelli comes from personal necessity uninformed by professional training. It is common for this sort of art to occur after a person has retired, but the real premise here is the tenacity to see oftentimes outlandish projects through--often the very source of engaging charm if not always aesthetic potency. In cases of influencial but outsized classics, such as the Watts Towers or Grandma Prisbey's Bottle Village, one among several photographers at least offer documentation (Contemporary Arts Forum, Santa Barbara).

August Sander is best remembered as the progenitor of "objective photography," in which the camera is kept at a neutral distance from the chosen subject. The collaborative couple of Bernd and Hilla Becher presently possess the aura of leadership as gurus of the objective approach. The quasi-scientific objectivity in Sander's work often allows his anthropologically presented subjects--as in the seemingly endless Citizens of the Twentieth Century series--to speak in their distinctive voices. It is the collective weight of Sander's observations that addresses disinterest, not so the singular photograph.
The Bechers' cooly train their camera on architecture, accepting one facade after another as though they were parading Renaissance princes through a formal portrait studio. The interesting connection to Sander, beyond the obvious one, is the fascinating individuality of many of their subjects that emerges in the face of a depressingly clinical totality (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Paul Kolosvary, "Me and My Cancer," mixed media, 30 x 21", 1995.

Paul Kololosvary's self portraits reflect an apparent immediacy that suggests an intuitive and emotional response to the state in which the artist finds himself. This is complicated by his apparent wish to let us in on the fact--by virtue of both titles and compositions--that he has cancer. Then they further perplex by their technical means. Rather than the spontaneous sketches that they initially seem to be, each image is developed from multiple drawings that are repeatedly xeroxed, painted, collaged and generally manipulated into a thoroughly studied resultant image. When it works, emotional intensity is coupled to a solid intuitive discourse on the approach of mortality. Wife and fellow artist Eva Kolosvary presents assemblages very much in keeping with the tradition of garbage transformed and elevated. When they suggest the personal and autobiographical they can be rich. At times, however, they veer into a self-conscious elegance that reduces the assemblage tradition to an appearance that de- tracts from the desired substance of it as a vehicle for art-making (Heritage Gallery, West Hollywood).

The commedia del arte Surrealism of David Serrano pops up here with a roster of characters grafting human and animal types. His color work is always eye catching, and his cast can be expected to be varied and intriguing. Animals with human attributes also appear in Iktae Rhee's paintings, which he uses to rediscover industrial-era isolation and alienation and plunk it down in the 1990's. George Tooker would crack a smile, if only he could. Artemio Rodriguez is just beginning his career after arriving from Mexico last year and taking up artistic residence at the Self-Help Graphics print workshop. Rodriguez produces at times intricate monoprints and linoleum cuts whose subjects swing from the battles of celestial beings to scenes of modern life that are rooted in tradi- tional prints dating from colonial Mexico (L.A. Artcore's Brewery Annex, Downtown).

California probably made its initial contribution to the avant garde during the 1930's when Helen Lundeberg and Lorser Feitelson intitiated the post-surrealist movement, which stimulated a marvelous variety of West Coast artists to produce a sustained response to emergent Freudianism quite distinctive from the European variety for three decades. This phenomenon receives it's most extensive treatment to date in Pacific Dreams (at UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles). Meanwhile, specific focus is lent to Lundeberg's expansive body of work in a small retrospective that includes examples of the classic '30s Microcosm/Macrocosm work and extends to work of the last five years (Tobey C. Moss Gallery, West Hollywood).