The Downtown Arts Development Association (DADA) returns for the third annual Downtown Lives massive warehouse exhibition beginning October 4th. Intended to demonstrate just how much volume of art activity is going on in Downtown L.A., rather than trying to ferret out the top stuff or make a statement about what kind of art most exemplifies the extended colony. More than fifteen years after the loft movement took off at the end of the 70s, Downtown remains the single major concentration of practicing artists on the West Coast. Downtown Lives celebrates this without pretension. The Grand Opening on October 4th begins at 7pm (admission, $5). Admission throughout the event is $2.

You've got more than 2 weeks to soak up the scene, from October 4-20. Go to 720 S. Alameda (between 7th and 8th Streets) and go nuts.

Patricia Nix, "I Promised You a Rose Garden", serigraph, 36 x 36", ed. 175

Since the demise of the International Contemporary Art Fair the annual art fair concept, far from dying, has blossomed into a variety of small scale focus fairs. The Fine Art Dealers Association takes a traditionalist approach, while the Gramercy Art Fair is devoted to the cutting edge. The Caskey/Lees team annually produces several specialty fairs: Works on Paper, Contemporary Crafts Market and so on. Now comes the return of Artexpo, which abandoned L.A. several years ago as something of an unwieldy, over-commercialized mess. Fine art could be found here and there, but the Convention Center was for the most part awash in lesser quality art that was more about commerce than art. By the time it left, most art folk were staying away.

Well, Artexpo is back and, boasting over 400 exhibitors from at least 25 countries, it promises to be as boistrous and unwieldy as it was at the end of its previous incarnation. However, its organizers promise "a completely re-formatted design and a renewed focus on high presentation standards", a "museum-quality exhibition" of cutting edge digital art being curated by William Radawec, along with some interesting sounding seminars and an on-line Web catalogue ( on the side.

Intended as a broad, inclusive survey of the art market, visitors will be exposed to various categories of media and ethnicities, functional to computer-generated art, low end posters to high end master works. The organizers have settled on a "themed pavilion" layout to allow visitors to guide themselves to the portion of the floor that is of particular interest to them.

Although local galleries are for the most part refraining from signing on, Artexpo offers renewed hope that Southern California can carry a large-scale art fair. Come the third weekend in October Angelenos will have a chance to see whether the re-cast Artexpo could perhaps now be The One.

Artexpo will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., at Pico Blvd. in downtown Los Angeles, on Octber 19 (10am-6pm), 20 (11am-6pm), and 21 (10am-3pm). On Friday, October 18 it will be open to the trade only. Admission is $8, with children under 12 admitted free. For further information call the Artexpo information line, 1 (800) 331-5706.

William Burroughs/Brion Gysin, "Untitled (Plan Drug Addiction)", mixed media, c. 1965.

"Ports of Entry: William S. Burroughs and the Arts"
is a fascinating and complex exhibition that examines the works and influences of the poet/writer/artist William S. Burroughs. The exhibition traces his visual development. It includes a number of his extraordinary collage collaborations with Brion Gysin, as well as examples of his shotgun art. In addition to Burroughs' visual works, also on display are a number of his collaborations as well as works by artists who cite him as an influence. The exhibition presents films, photographs and voice recordings by and about Burroughs in addition to a wide range of artworks. Although not all the work is visually sophisticated or as compelling as his writings, this is a rich exhibition that aptly represents the scope of Burroughs work (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).

The retrospective of the great Dana Point proto-Minimalist John McLaughlin may be smallish, but precisely because of its size it is lucid and non-repetitive. The very focused McLaughlin, after all, could explore the philosophical and psychological ramifications of reduced form and color with singular drive and ferocious obsessiveness. But the public can better comprehend his artistic quest and personality with a selection of his mature work culled carefully from an extensive oeuvre. No matter how familiar you may think yourself with McLaughlin's accomplishments, the show reveals a few more facets than you suspected, and many more than his reputation suggests. The early work surprises for its intricacy, its intimacy, its vivacious color and/or its highly personal interpretation of Cubism. Actually, none of this, even the intricacy, should come as a surprise, as all these characteristics recur later in his reductive geometries. Maybe what is most surprising is just how thoroughly engaging the early work is--like Stuart Davis with the kinks ironed out (for better or worse). Still and all, the breathtakingly open and pure painting McLaughlin began to make in the early 1950s and continued to create until his death in 1976 was his signal contribution to modern art. With these transcendent paintings McLaughlin demonstrated that if the mind of the Minimalist corpus is Mondrian's neo-Plasticism, and the guts are Reinhardt's dogmatic search for the void, it's heart is McLaughlin's Zen hyperfection, the constant rediscovery of the rightness of simplicity and the simplicity of rightness (Orange County Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, Orange County).

Kim Cridler, "Basin", steel/enamel, 17 x 32", 1996.

Dean DeCocker has been a galvaninzing force among those local sculptors whose devotion to forms and nethods that make formal and technical construction explicit has prompted the adoption of "Stucturalism" as a self-identifying moniker. More recently declaring his own association with the group, Eric Johnson has proven another source of energy for the Structuralists, in fact serving to expand their purview and clarify their purpose. It is through Johnson that a sculptor such as Kim Cridler, whose explication and development of formal elements seems on the surface to be quite different than DeCocker's and Johnson's, can be recognized as a Structuralist under the skin. Cridler's recognizable imagery--indeed, her fabrication of items that mimic objects in the real world (e.g., an ornate vessel, a quilt made of metal filigree)--diverts us away from her attention to detail, her use of line, and her logical construction of objects from the repetition of identical units. But such principles of design and fabrication reiterate the formal values underpinning Johnson's and DeCocker's non-objective styles. In fact, interacting handsomely with Cridler's work, DeCocker's stacked and strut-supported curvilinear shapes and Johnson's bulbous, eccentric julls and shells hint broadly and wittily at real-world phenomena--without compromising an iota of their lucid, self-sustaining shapeliness (Gallery 825, West Hollywood).

David Smith-Harrison, "El Olivo", intaglio, 36 x 30"

Impeccable draughstmanship and superb mastery of etching and engraving techniques are the background for David Smith-Harrison's moralizing statement concerning the goodness of trees. Trees, as living beings with color and space surrounding them, seem to have all the air and spiritual force, while buildings and fragments of buildings serve as the remnants of a well-preserved but deathly civilization. Smith-Harrison's majestic palm trees are designed to uplift us--and they do (Couturier Gallery, West Hollywood).

Soonja Kim's newest work is perhaps her most striking--precisely because it is the most strongest, most elemental and least elaborate. The square segments which have recently been functioning as the basic building block for Kim's pieces now predominate; all her compositional reasoning is based on the implicit grid they determine. But few are actual grid formations, and fewer still are freighted with symmetrical organization. "Freighted" because the large, physically and visually weighty painting-objects seem ponderous enough in their sheer presence without the added gravity of iconic symmetry or checkerboard lockstep. The elements balancing one another in such asymmetric counterpoise are wood panels painted a silky black and gray aluminum panels stained with washes and splashes of muriatic acid, adding further nuance to already rich tonal variations. Kim has long exploited the sensuosity of such coarse materials, but never before has she allowed them to speak so emphatically for themselves--or capitalized so richly on their integral elegance. The most radical of the works, a free-standing stack of aluminum panels atop a stack of unpainted wood ones, points to an even gutsier neo-Minimalist direction for Kim (Boritzer/Gray/Hamano, Santa Monica).

More Continuing & Recommended (part 2). . . .