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Marie Thibeault, "NestBuilders Believe", o/c, 46 x 54".

These three artist prizewinners from last summer's On Site At the Gate competition all work with dense forms and images that favor viscous, quasi-natural textures. In what seem like slabs (or, in her sculptural installation segments, dollops) of waxy amber Barbara Stasen embeds layer upon layer of imagery, all of it appropriated--not quite collaged, not quite photographed--from various sources in the artist's surroundings (personal effects, magazines, wallpaper patterns). The nearly impenetrable jumbles of referents read more like memories of things than as things themselves. A similar poignance pervades Kathryn Tubbs' more aggressively installational work, conveyed both by the crumpled, weathered textures that predominate and the strange, biomorphic imagery that struggles to emerge from the pervasive marshiness. A mordant wit plays around the edges of Tubbs' funky envelopes of space. Although Marie Thiebeault is the one artist here who does not venture off the wall, her paintings and collage-drawings also convey this sense of juicy decay and equally tactile revivification. It is clear from details in the work on paper, and is strongly sensed as well in the oils, that Thiebeault is indeed referencing landscape; what is tantalizingly unclear is whether she is painting the desert, marine life, or some intermediate bio-sphere (Angels Gate Cultural Center, South Bay).

Sigmar Polke is an exciting and versatile artist. He paints, he draws, he makes collages, he makes photographs and often he combines all these mediums. In When Pictures Vanish more than 120 pieces spanning 30 years of work are on view. The exhibition traces Polke's use of photography in a quasichronological fashion, and moves from representational to abstract images. Polke usually manipulates the surface of the photograph, painting on emulsion, or marking on the surface. He often obscures the original image--making gestural compositions that refer back to some photographic reality (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

"Basic Noise: Mom and Dad in Recent American Voices", 39 speakers/135 voices/4 audio samplers/computer/random program software, 1996.

Dagmar Deming, a German artist visiting at Art Center, has created a compelling installation entitled New To LA. This sound work utilizes the advances in digital recording techniques to create a work in which the multiple intonations of different people saying "mother" and "father" are woven into an aural tapestry within the large main gallery space. A grid of small, hanging speakers and the imposing bank of blinking computer readout panels, where the random voice patterns are stored and relayed, gives the impression that Demming is fearful of just how much technology will colonize even our most primal references.. The outer walls of the gallery have been painted in vivid colors--green, yellow and orange, and upon these colored backgrounds are sentences that refer to sexual positions. The flowery language of these sayings creates a double entendre and charges the walls with meaning (Art Center College of Design, Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Pasadena).

Albert Renger Patzch was a modernist German photographer who lived from 1897-1966. He is best known for photographs from the book The World is Beautiful. In it photographs of flowers and the natural environment are juxtaposed with images of industrialization: machines, tall buildings, etc. Renger Patzsch meticulously photographed his subjects, creating sharply focused images. He was one of the first photographers to reject the conventions of pictorialism in favor of a celebration of the sleek and shiney. His images favored realism over subjectivity and today are seen as amongst the first documentary images (J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu).

Ken Scheles' gritty black and white photographs are urban explorations of intimate moments and chance juxtapositions. Entitled Invisible City, this suite of images taken on the lower east side of New York, gracefully explore the subjects of longing, time and memory. Although Scheles' working methodology is similar to other photographers who have chronicled the city--Robert Frank, Gary Winnogrand, Walker Evans--these images are distinctly his own (Jan Kesner Gallery, West Hollywood).

Kingdom of Flora is a large and elegant group exhibition that juxtaposes contemporary and old master images of flowers. Flowers are shown both real and sculpted, photographed and drawn. Among the many contemporary artists well represented in this exhibition are Adam Fuss, Doug Hall, Andy Warhol, Kiki Smith, Lily van Der Stoker. There are also a number of historical works (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).

This sequence of three one-room one-person shows hovers around the unifying theme of figure as subject. "Hover" because while Anita Huffington quite forthrightly sculpts the human body out of bronze, Dan Abramson barely refers to it in his collagetransfer-drawings. Diane Buckler mediates between the two extemes, combining photographic renderings of the female figure with images, also photographically derived, of architectural details and spaces. Buckler effects these montages as low-relief etchings in granite, conjuring ancient sculpture--and modern-day tombstones--with equal doses of irony and elegance. Huffington's work recalls Rodin, and especially certain of Rodin's acolytes (Bourdelle, Despiau, Saul Baizerman), in it's emphasis on corpus as sculptural form. Despite a thoroughgoing traditionalism, it's sensuous palpability gives Huntington's art an immediacy as compelling as Buckler's. Abramson's work on paper, too, is rooted in a certain tradition, that of the collage poised between texture and image. Think Rauschenberg, think Schwitters. Think Abramson, too. His delicate approach, intimate, restrained, notational and iconic, is as distinctive as it is delicious (Louis Stern Fine Art, West Hollywood).