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Elizabeth Catlett, "Sharecropper", linocut, 1948/70, will be among works on view at Works on Paper/L.A. '96.

With the demise of a single major international art fair that provides a centerpiece to the season, the rise of a number of small, focused fairs offers us a more managable way to assess a particular field. The two mid-January entries, Photo L.A. and Works on Paper/L.A. '96, are married by more than their coinciding calendar dates.

The second Works on Paper show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, located at Pico Boulevard and Main Street in Santa Monica, brings together 75 predominantly American dealers offering prints, photography, drawings and watercolors ranging from Old Master to the fresh and new. With sponsorship by the Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) and the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) continuing from last year, there is a solid core of returnees from the well-received '95 line-up. The special exhibition this year surveys "The Image of Women in Art, 15th Century to Now," and is curated by former Municipal Art Gallery director Josine Ianco Starrels. A special lecture sponsored by the IFPDA will be delivered by artist and Tamarind Lithography Workshop founder June Wayne, "Virtual Reality and the Art of the Original Print." This year's Preview opens Works on Paper on Friday, January 12, from 6-9pm at $35 per ticket. Full fair days follow on Saturday (from 11am to 7pm) and Sunday (from 11am to 5pm). The $10 admission includes a copy of the accompanying catalogue. Call organizer Caskey Lees for further details at (310) 455-2886.

One night before, the 5th annual Photo L.A. will host its Thursday, January 11th opening from 6-9pm, with thirty-eight galleries and dealers offering more than 3,000 art photographs. If last year is any indication, a range of vintage and contemporary work will be available, but it is the mid-century masters such as Weston, Kertesz, Cunningham, Cartier-Bresson and Adams who will be most in evidence. A handful of top west coast photography curators that includes Arthur Oll- man (Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego), Elizabeth Brown (UC Santa Barbara University Art Museum), and Denise Bethel (Sotheby's) will offer collecting seminars each of the three fair days (seating is limited to 30, so don't come late). And to throw a nicely bent note into the generally polite proceedings, the special exhibition "pursuing the undocumentable" is being curated by former gallery owner Sue Spaid. Butterfield & Butterfield provides the comfortable setting at 7601 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Following the Thursday reception, public hours are Friday from 3-8pm; Saturday from 12-7pm; and Sunday from 12-6pm. Tickets are $10 each day, or $15 for all three days. For further information call the organizer, Stephen Cohen Gallery at (213) 937-5482/fax (213) 937-5523.

Gary Simmons, "The Ballroom", Erasure Drawing, chalk on slate-painted wall, 1995. Photo: Susan Einstein.

Gary Simmons' room-sized installation of Erasure Drawings are an amazing creation. Simmons painted the gallery walls black then chalked and erased them, resulting in a murky and ephemeral feeling. Then he imposed large-scaled chalk drawings over the erased background, creating a dream-like environment. All of Simmons' subjects are taken from cartoons from the 1930's and 1940's where racial stereotypes were portrayed. Rather than a didactic presentation about the trials and tribulations of racial issues, Simmons creates explosive drawings where the absent subject stands in for the bigotry. Among the five scenes chalked on the 17-foot high walls of the galleries, one depicts an empty ballroom with a swinging chandelier composed of knotted nooses. Another depicts a vacant throne. A wrecked pirate ships fills another wall, while on yet another the cartoon signifier of a rebounding arrow fills the picture plane. Only one contains a figure, a lone flute player against a starry night sky. These drawings need to be seen to be experienced. The scope and scale of this endeavor makes it one of Simmons' most ambitious projects to date (Lannan Foundation, West Side).

Otto Hagel, "The Window Washer", gelatin silver print, 1939. Photo courtesy the Collection of the Center for Creative Photography.

Points of Entry: Reframing America is the third and last installment in this landmark collaborative series. It presents both aesthetic and social approaches to photography by seven European emigre artists: Alexander Alland, Robert Frank, John Gutmann, Otto Hagel, Hansel Meith, Lisette Model and Marion Palfi (Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego).

The five photographic works of Paul McCarthy on view here date from 1970 -1974. Although McCarthy is well known for his performance work, his sculpture, and his photography, these early pieces present the more conceptual side of his practice. These are all sequential black and white pieces based on observing a particular event in many ways. In one series he photographed out his car window at repeated intervals; in another he photographed into a mirror placed on the floor in order to record the changing reflection as he encircled the space. Included in this exhibition is a photographic sequence that presents McCarthy using his body to make his paintings. On their own, these images feel like relics pulled from the attic, but when viewed in conjunction with the other photo-based conceptual art made at that time they document not only a very interesting time historically, but the basis of McCarthy's late work (Blum and Poe Gallery, Santa Monica).

In her dramatic installation, Pictures from the Floating World, Barbara Bloom has transformed a gallery into another place. The floor has been painted a deep Chinese red. Around the perimeter of the gallery is a dark boardwalk. A wooden bridge spans the space, creating a gentle arch above the floor. Viewers can walk over the bridge and look down into the red sea. Floating on this painted red expanse are small plaster casts of male and female Asian faces. On top of the bridge are vitrines that contain small pornographic images, embedded in a grain of rice, that are viewed through magnifiers attached to each vitrine. This excessive and dramatic installation is about the intrigue of the unknown and the exotic. And according to Bloom, it is also about the "very large and the very small. The vast population and the intimate act and the dramatic exhibition of the ephemeral object." (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).

George Segal's installation of photo-sculptures take over and dominate their space. The vast gallery has been painted black for the occasion, making the works even more dramatic. Each sculpture presents a figure or series of figures against a crisply printed photographic background. The photographic backdrops are a new element of Segal's works and come out of a photographic series he did about New York City. Figures are placed in front of these photographs of dark corners or store fronts and become part of the environment. As always Segal's figures are anonymous indi-viduals, oblivious, and in this case overwhelmed by their surroundings (Fred Hoffman Gallery, Santa Monica).

Glen Seator's installation/sculpture is an awe inspiring work. Not only for the craft involved in reproducing a replica of the gallery's front office, but by the sense of vertigo it is able to create. This full-scale model has been tipped on its side and placed in the center of the main gallery. Viewers cannot enter the carpeted space, but can peer in through the doors, which now function like windows. You are immediately put off kilter and off balance, and a dizzying feeling results. Up and down are successfully confused. In questioning the importance of a dealer's office in the practice of buying and selling, this work suggests that it is always a skewed space (Burnett Miller Gallery, Santa Monica).

Kim Dingle, "John Wayne Cookie Jar", glazed ceramic with china paint, 14 x 8 x 9", 1995. Photo: Chris Warner.

In a mini-retrospective exhibition of Kim Dingle, one not only has the opportunity to see where her bad girls are venturing, but also to see where they have come from. Dingle works with all mediums, with photography and painting as well as sculpture and installation. Her works have feminist undertones yet are are not didactic. In early paintings she imposed young baby girls into images of the wild west, or allowed them to fight and frolic on the range. Her girls always wear frilly white dresses yet carry guns and are not afraid to fight. In the later installation pieces she has created an environment for Priss, the naughty baby girl who throws her toys all over her playroom, marks crayons on the walls and won't stay in her crib. While Dingle's works seem playful, they are pointed commentaries about the role not only of women but of girls in our society (Otis College of Art and Design Gallery, Mid-City).

In his first solo exhibition in nine years John Sonsini presents large oil paintings depicting clothed and unclothed male figures, based on images from the tradition of "Male Physique" photography. The bodies and the paintings are thickly textured and dense. There is expressive quality to both the gestures within the subject as well as the gestural handling of the paint. Although realistic in nature, these paintings utilize the conventions of abstraction through the presentation of wide areas of bold color. Large paintings of male nudes are not often seen; Sosini's presentation captures both the strength and the vitality of his subjects (Dan Bernier Gallery, Santa Monica).

Larry Johnson makes conceptually based photographs. These eleven large images combine flat fields of colors and text that are ironic and deadpan commentaries of contemporary culture. One piece plays with the line "Supercalifragilisticexpialido-sious" replacing "frag" with "fag." Another superimposes a text about Madonna on an enlarged popsicle stick. As always there is a gay subtext to Johnson's work. Submerged in bold graphics and dynamic type are multiple issues ranging from the formal to the photographic to the sublime (Margo Leavin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Bill Jensen, "The Conversation", oil on linen, 36 x 44", 1995. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

Bill Jensen's sensual and sombre abstract paintings continue to hold both the wall as well as our attention. The works are not beautiful or cheerful, but more spiritual musings on the nature of paint and the subtle combination of colors, forms and textures. Although the paintings seem to reference the landscape, they are in reality non-referential works that take their cues and pleasures from Jensen's imagination (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

Division of Labor: Women's Work in Contemporary Art explores gender stereotypes in artmaking. The exhibition addresses such issues as what is woman's art vs. what is art made by women? It also includes art made by men employing what were traditionally woman's tasks, like sewing and weaving. The exhibition juxtaposes ephemera from the political and social frame-work of the times with the actual works of art. The work in the exhibition is installed chronologically and includes seminal works from the 1960's, including pieces from the infamous woman's house, pieces by Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold and Miriam Shapiro, in addition to work made by artists exploring gender roles today (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).