American, 19th Century, "Watermelon on a Plate", o/c, c. 1850.

American Naive Paintings From the National Gallery of Art features thirty-five still lifes, landscapes and genre paintings, which are augmented by fourteen additional works of California naive paintings from the Museum's own holdings. Dating to the early 19th-century, these paintings in part serve a documentary function. That the artists are for the most part self-taught in this selection translates into a charming and direct body of images. Check out Watermelon on a Plate and Giant Sequoia, both by anonymous artists, in particular (Laguna Art Museum, Orange County).

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(1) Gary Brotmeyer, "Downtown Art Simian", mixed media, 1984.
(2) Anon. Artist, "#687", oil and mixed media.

Gary Brotmeyer subjects old portrait photographs to minimal physical alteration, getting maximal effect from the addition of a few pasted papers or a couple of affixed objects. No only do the strategically collaged items enliven the drab, cliché-ridden late-19th century dresser-top portraits, they transform the hapless subjects into cartoon monsters, goofy peoploids who sprout beaks, sport impossibly unruly hair, and are visited by unlikely companions straight out of Bosch or Ensor. Similarly, the soi-disant Anonymous Artist--an anonymous Bosch, if you will--visits some grotesque transformations on what would seem to have been ordinary fin-de-siècle studio portraits (and a few landscapes, possibly plein air). Anon is slicker than Brotmeyer, weathering his (her?) montages so that they seem the more seamless, as well as the more antique. She/he shares a warped, and yet materially sensuous, sensibility with Brotmeyer, but the latter's antecedents are clearly more Dada, while Anon's are more Surrealist, via Joel-Peter Witkin (sometimes to a fault) (Stephen Cohen Gallery, West Hollywood).

Llyn Foulkes' exceptional exhibition confirms his place as an artist of cutting wit and impeccible skill. Many of the works here are ironic self-portraits. Foulkes inserts himself in the work as a commentator on the evils of the world through a satyrical look at popular culture. The subject of his scrutiny is none other than Mickey Mouse. Foulkes combines paintings and collage to create mixed media works that may vary in size, but not in the intensity of their message (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

Charles Long, installation view, "Our Bodies Our Shelves".

Charles Long's wall and floor sculptures are brilliantly colored, eccentrically-shaped abstractions. The floor works resemble pods, made of rubber, that are filled with a variety of personal objects. The wall works, non-functional shelves are bulbous shapes that feel like overgrown amoebas. The works here, humorously titled Our Bodies Our Shelves, examine the relationship of the body to do-mestic space in an off-handed and abstracted way. Also on view are Anetta Kapon's sculptural objects that juxtapose everyday objects to transform store-bought commodities into works of art (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica)

This survey exhibition of Charles Arnoldi's art spans the last 25 years. Numerous sculptures, drawings and paintings illustrate the notable scope of Arnoldi's oeuvre and serve to trace the artist's influences and development. Colorful abstractions use nature as a point of departure, a study of natural forms that led from the simply elegant combination of twine-wrapped sticks to the more complex assemblages of acrylic and sticks (Fred Hoffman Fine Art, Santa Monica).

Since the 1960's Ed Moses has been one of the central figures of the Los Angeles scene. His significance results not from the originality of his accomplishments but, indeed, precisely from their non-originality--that is, their fully-developed synthesis of already-extant ideas and approaches. Moses, after all, is a direct inheritor of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. He fairly parades his membership in the extended "family" of abstract painting. Furthermore, he has worked his way through several styles, which the MOCA retrospective, which covers nearly a half-century of work, shows. Moses demonstrates to more than a generation of abstract painters what is possible, and how great the range of possibilities can be. The retrospective ranges from Klee-influenced near-juvenilia to immense lyrical abstractions painted especially for the towering entrance/exit gallery of the show. In between the shifts and feints of Moses' career are considered and displayed. Sometimes he paints from the gut, other times he paints from the brush, and he even occasionally paints from the elbow. But it's consistently smart work (Moses always paints partly from the head) and convincing in its sensual, material passion (Moses also always paints partly from the heart) (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown. Moses' work can also currently be seen a L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, and Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Santa Monica).

Skeet McAuley, "Buxus (Boxwood)", color photograph, ed. 3, 60 x 29", 1996.

Skeet McAuley's beautiful photographs of Bonsai trees, placed against a black background, present the elegance and complexity of nature. Juxtaposed with Tony Tasset's conceptual installation, the two artists provide an interesting dicotomy. While McAuley delights in the details of the observable, Tasset articulates the conceptual "what if." His installation combines two video pieces, numerous large color photographs and one sculpture, an orange I-beam placed on the gallery floor. As you try to make connections among Tasset's objects you can't help but be distracted by the repeating video image of Tasset being shot. This can't help but influence the reading of the rest of the work (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Erik Otsea and Jan Tumlir explore the many manifestations of a single work. Since 1988 they have been painting and photographing a single 4 x 5' canvas, documenting its transformations. Is the work a painting or a photograph of a painting of a photograph--or a photograph of a painting? Otsea and Tumlir explore and re-explore the issues of reproduction. Al- though the photographs are all that remain, is the photograph the original? Photographs of the painting are presented both life-sized and smaller in this exhibition, along with core-samples of the actual painted canvas (Jan Kesner Gallery, West Hollywood).

Detours '96 is a group show of site-specific work that includes veteran artists Christel Dillbohner, Sam Erenberg, Mary Linn Hughes and Reginald Zachary along with new artists who carry on dialogues with a gallery wall or with the exterior of buildings situated throughout the 18th Street Arts Complex. Murals, wall installations, laundry room narratives, constructivist sculpture, scrims and much more invite the mind and the eye. In addition, the International Artists' Writing Reading Room includes another terrific group of works, these in book and written form. Notable are Lane Barden's wall hanging with text on copper; Lauren Crux's My Lunch with Sophia Loren and Other Stories, a series of scrolls; Lauren Evans' My Big Book of Syringes, a book of wooden boards in the shape of syringes with text following the theme; Coco Gordon's Blip Blipped, a sculptural book on the environment; Brian O'Neill's toilet roll book, The Massage; and Maria F. Porges' Twenty Questions, miscellaneous texts from her Image/Text Works series. Vincent Trasov, Mr. Peanut of Vancouver, but now living in Berlin, sends Berlin Street Names in the Third Reich, a wall piece with a heavy meaning. Suvan Geer's moving Mother's Milk Text Series #6 (Child) aptly displays this artist/writer's manifold talents. All of this is presented in a living room-like setting, which allows the visitor to sit down and literally "read" a work. While there, also take a look at Traffic Report, a publication full of writing and pages by L.A. artists. It's a stunning publication and one which should be read widely and well (Side Street Projects, Santa Monica).

Dan Manns' works are composed around the theme of stuttering. Manns has created a series of collages out of photographs of faces that center around the mouth. By cutting and pasting various sections of the mouth together, he visually articulates the process of the stutter--its silences and repetitions. In the paintings--small shaped canvases--decorate the gallery wall, intertwining with a painted line that links these paintings together like the words in a long visual sentence (Griffin Contemporary Exhibitions, Venice).