Karen Carson, "Breathe," the featured poster and T-shirt image of the Venice Art Walk.

The Venice Art Walk, this year being held the weekend of May 16-18, remains the single major public art event of the year. Since the demise of the L.A. International Contemporary Art Fair it is rather poetic that this volunteer- and good deed-driven fundraiser should have outlasted the corporate-driven event's ability to draw an audience. But the good will of the local artists and media, and absence of sniping by gallery professionals, butresses the pleasant Spring atmosphere of a sun-drenched stroll enriched by the encounter with area artist studios. With optional extra parties, docent bus tours, the food faire and the silent auction, it adds up to the kind of event that will appeal to you even if you never attend other exhibitions during the rest of the year.

For this 18th annual weekend it all looks familiar and comfortable. Over 100 artists will be participating. The centerpiece image that goes onto the commemorative poster and t-shirt, Breathe, was created by Karen Carson, the subject of a four-exhibit retrospective just last year. And your $45 ticket (on up, if you plan to take a docent tour or attend one of the private concerts) goes to the Venice Family Clinic's work to provide medical services to low income families who would otherwise lack access to health care.

The main event, the Art Walk, is on Sunday the 18th from 11am to 7pm. Parking at the Westminster, Walgrove or Broadway Elementary Schools is free, and free bus shuttles run all through the day. For tickets and further information call (310) 392-8630.

Francis Beernard, "Dietrich," advertising poster for a stove, c. 1930. Photo courtesy of Nicolas Bailey. Featured at the L.A. Modernism Show.

The week before, the L.A. Modernism Show returns to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium for its tenth year. One of a series of small but focused art fairs that came to the foreground with the demise of the single, large fair, Modernism encompasses the whole of the twentieth century and a broad range of cultural media--including, but by no means limited to, fine art objects. Furniture, jewelry, clothing, and even books that are "modern" often are now antique as well.

Considered aesthetically, this show offers one way to synthesize your vision of the American century. Just don't forget that these objects represent the particular inventory available through participating dealers--all of which is looking for a home. Unlike a museum show that strives to bring together normally far flung objects specifically to organize a unifying vision, a fair such as this brings collections together by coincidence with the intent of disbersment. Thus, the specific flavor of each annual show can vary greatly from year to year.

Modernism opens with a benefit preview on May 9, 6-9pm, that will benefit the Los Angeles Conservancy's work in the area of historical architectural preservation. Ticket price is $50. Regular show days on Saturday and Sunday run from 10am to 7pm and 11am to 5pm respectively. General admission price is $10; children under 16 are free when accompanied by an adult.

The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium is located at the corner of Main Street and Pico Boulevard. For further information call the show's organizer, Caskey, Lees & Olney at (310) 455-2886.


Kathe Kollwitz, Besuch im Krankenhaus,
woodcut, 27.7cm x 35.9cm, 1929.


Georges Rouault, "La Parade", color aquatint,
30cm x 26.5cm" 1926.

Seeing Expressionist masters Kathe Kollwitz and Georges Rouault together broadens one's view of the school's range and pushes the two artists in directions opposite one another. Kollwitz' elegant interplay of the point and side of litho pencil or chalk is as well-known as her sympathy for the underclass and the downtrodden figures that so often serve as her subject matter. The dominant chord of tragedy overrides everything else, however. More than just the gaunt and haunted facial expressions, it permeates body language. In a way, Kollwitz is in part just a fine political cartoonist. But the pathos soaks so deeply as to personalize the narrative and connect you directly to the emotion. Rouault's heavily outlined compositions carry nothing like this emotional weight, and next to Kollwitz' images the eye dives happily into the formal treatment of color and surface. If you want to get right up close to examine Kollwitz' prints, Rouault's are best seen across the room. Feeling is thought through first, then imbedded. Not only in their style but in their spirit these works represent a unique aspect of Modernism that harkens to pre-Renaissance Europe (Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood).

"Unauthorized Biography", acrylic on linen, 64'x46", 1974.

Russell Forester is a prolific artist who lives near San Diego. He has been creating abstract paintings, drawings and sculptures since the 1950's, but is the first opportunity locally to see and evaluate the scope of his endeavors. As well as being a painter and accomplished draftsman, Forester has also worked as an architect--designing the structure of the original Jack in the Box as well as other retail structures in Southern California. This extensive exhibition presents the many different aspects of his work, and is worth multiple viewings (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

"Untitled", pastel on paper, 33-3/4"x31-3/4", 1997.

Hillary Brace's works look like they were made in a different era. She is not at all concerned with issues relating to post-modernism or abstraction. Rather she carefully draws what she sees or what she imagines the sky to look like. This exhibition presents realistic paintings and drawings of beautiful cloud formations. Among the most compelling works in the show are a series of small charcoal cloud drawings on mylar that appear to be photographic. These pieces have the emotional impact of Alfred Steiglitz's photographic series Equivalents. They are tight drawings that evoke not only a wide range of emotions but demonstrate Brace's skills as a draftsman (Tatistcheff / Rogers, Santa Monica).

Pauline Stella Sanches' floor installation catches your eye and won't let it go. Numerous pieces of paper, each with a beautiful and sophisticated design, create a circle on the gallery floor. Each of these prints has an intricate pattern, each different from one another. The effect: an abstract composition that continues Stella Sanchez' investigation of layered forms. Best known for her textured yellow paintings in which concentric circles are layered on the canvas surface, in this installation she combines the wall works with the floor piece to take her work into a new dimension. Also on view are Greg Colson's sculptures, drawings and photographs. Colson continues to make wonderful compositions out of ordinary objects--junk--that is usually discarded. The photographs and the drawings elucidate his process, but it is the sculptural work that is the main focus of this stunning exhibition (Angles Gallery, Santa Monica).

John Chamberlin, "Alsatia Will," painted steel, 58 1/4 x 64 3/4 x 55", 1992.

John Chamberlin's sculpture was a late but welcome entry into the Abstract Expressionist lexicon when he first emerged in the late 1950's. His use of auto parts re-formed into twisted and knotted abstract calligraphy-in-space, often painted in jaunty counterpoint, was jazzy and exhuberant. It moved beyond the serious, often pompous "authenticity" common to the movement's ideology towards a humorous and even celebratory use of media from American culture that helped lay the groundwork for the Pop artists. Recent work on view suggests that, whether or not this aesthetic statement means today what it once did, Chamberlain is a master of his media and retains his ability to create energetic, visually engaging sculpture. The work stands alongside that of Frank Stella's as having espoused abstraction in a sustained way that is orthodox yet vibrant (Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Orange County).

Oliver Jackson, "Untitled (8. 8. 89-II)," ink/watercolor on paper, 37 7/8 x 23 3.4", 1989.

Oliver Jackson's forte is the line. Four untitled nude drawings are simple--a hip and torsos--yet captivating. The strength and elegance of Jackson's lines give these renderings their appeal. In his watercolors the line is looser, more relaxed, yet just as exquisite. These figures take on a symbolic quality, as if they are floating through an ethereal, dreamlike space. In some of the large oil paintings, however, the line is lost in the density of the paint. The paintings that retain some of the linear quality of the drawings are more successful. In a small, untitled piece from 1996, the form of a crouching figure is scratched into the black paint at the center of the painting. Surrounding the figure is paint of bright, celebratory colors which overpower the black bleakness of the central figure (Porter Troupe Gallery, San Diego).

Toshio Shibata's exquisite black- and-white photographs depict the place where the natural and man-made environment intersect. His crystal clear, amazingly sharp photographs flatten the landscape, making abstracted compositions. Shibata is one of a number of Japanese photographers who are documenting their environment, taking advantage of the camera's ability to flatten space (Gallery RAM, Santa Monica).

Ingrid Eriksson, "Rollertrack," installation/performance, 1997.

Toy Store: A Swedish Mentality is a provokative exhibition featuring the work of five young artists from Sweden. The works do not take themselves too seriously, allowing the show to offer something fun for everyone. Among the works on view is an installation by Ingrid Eriksson where viewers can take their shoes off, put on roller blades, and zoom around the gallery with a hockey stick while slamming a ball against the walls or the goal. Stig Sjolund's snow machine is a device that creates actual white flakes that are scattered into the gallery. Elin Wikstrom's performance- orientated piece has plastic coolers continually carried from the gallery to the street. Peter Geschwind's The Soda Stream is a plastic tube that carries green liquid that weaves its way through the gallery. Life-sized puppets perform lewd acts in Jonas Kjellgren's tableau. Although there are connections among the works these Swedish artists are making, and work being made here in Los Angeles, this exhibition shows us just how global the art world has become and that artists focus on similar ideas no matter where they live (LACE, Hollywood).

Ruth Weisberg's Drawing on a Life exhibition is a very good cross-section of her fine arts graphics work of the last three decades. Among the works on view there are lithographs from the seventies, intaglios from the eighties, and monoprints from the ninties. All of which come together for the viewer to chart Weisberg's poetic and technical migrations over the course of time. Fueled by her involvement with feminist philosophy, all of the images work as a mix of personal and historical overlays. The image of a group of children taken from a photograph during the forties or fifties finds its way into a setting that appears derived from a Velasquez painting. The figure of the Commedia dell'Arte jester, Arlecchino, finds its way onto a screen of faces made up of participants at some Hollywood cocktail party. The image of a young woman materializes in the small, cluttered bedroom of artist Alberto Giacometti. Each time, Weisberg creates a work that visually implies that there is more than one way to view the past, to know the past and to the make it our own. The most appropriate way is that of approaching it as though it were a living resource to literally and figuratively draw from (University of Judaism, Platt Gallery, West Los Angeles).