George Segal, "The Expulsion", mixed media installation. 1986-87.

Best known as an artist who makes life-size, realistic sculptures of Everyman cast in ordinary situations, George Segal has created five major sculptural environments that express his personal view of stories from the Book of Genesis. Though Segal has explored Biblical themes before, this is the first time they have been exhibited collectively in a Los Angeles museum. Beginning in 1958 with The Legend of Lot (the most controversial story) and working his way through 1987 with The Expulsion (from the Garden) and Abraham's Farewell to Ishmael (the most powerful piece), Segal presents his version of these pivotal Biblical themes in terms of contemporary dramatic realism. Though some of his scenarios are more successful than others, looking at these five illuminated "stage-sets" is a moving experience. Clothing his gray-plaster figures in ambiguous attire, posing them against bold, expressionistic, high-voltage backdrops, Segal's characters depict their mortal plights as part of the human condition. A poignant piece, In Memory of Kent State, 1970 compares the biblical story of Abraham, asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, to the senseless slaughter of students opposed to the Vietnam War. The least effective is Jacob's Dream, whose glamorized treatment evokes the look of a Hollywood film set (Skirball Museum, West Los Angeles).

Instead of being curated by the museum's professional staff, Roadmaps, Structure, Process and the Collection was put together by six artists from the Artists Council of the Long Beach Museum of Art. As a result, visitors get the refreshing experience of seeing seldom displayed work from the museum's permanent collection through the eyes of artists themselves, who envision curating the show as a collective work of art. Approximately 60 works are divided into 10 distinct areas with accompanying commentary as to why a, b, and c are grouped together. Starting with a 1938 painting by Eugene Berman, and ending with the 1994 Shrine sculpture by Darlene Nguyen-Ely, the journey is instructive, playful, entertaining, and a walk down memory lane through 60 years of California art (Long Beach Museum of Art).
Noah Purifoy's retrospective is a testimonial to what an imaginative artist can do with found objects--time after time. Purifoy takes toilet seats and sees an abstract sculpture. Never wasting materials, he incorporates the toilet tanks with bicycle parts, tricycles and other detritus to create a train complete with the rails. The wall construction Watts Riot, done after the 1965 explosion, is sensitive enough to stop you dead in your tracks. Both whimsical and serious, he creates another impressive abstract work out of an old Volkswagen, while in another corner of the gallery you find beautiful lead-gray tombstones, one more impressive than the other (California African-American Museum, Downtown).


Dori and Joseph DeCamillis, "In the Privacy of. . .", oil on board, 7 x 5", 1997.




Huang Vu, "The Pacifier", electrical wire, 37 x 32 x 32", 1997.

A respite from the usual visual sturm und drang may be found in the small jewel-like paintings of domestic scenes by Dori and Joseph DeCamillis. Intimate, unpeopled narratives reveal daily living habits: an open door to a bathroom, the top of the commode up; a brassier thrown haphazardly over a chair; an unmade bed. Someone left the house in a hurry.
In the front gallery space, Huang Vu's airy little wire wall constructions and free-standing sculptures, some twirling in the breeze, cast distinctive and elegant shadows that extend the works' physical presence onto wall and floor (Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica).

Center for Land Use Interpretation, untitled photograph.

Hinterland: A Voyage into Ex-urban Southern California
takes us on a tour of the Golden State's backside--places usually spotted only along train routes or visited as the result of wrong turns off the Interstate. Our guides, a group of photographers better known as the Center for Land Use Interpretation, expose us to a Southern California that exists behind and outside the facades and curtain walls that normally shield our eyes from things we don't want to see or aren't meant to see: a Navy bombing range, a burlesque museum dedicated to historic bombshells, an old ghost town, a brand-new pyramid, a deep space tracking station and landing pad where extraterrestrial enthusiasts cling to the mantra "If you build it, they will come." From unearthed treasures to things that might have been better left beneath the sand, it all exists in our own back yards, of our own making, and now on the record (LACE, Hollywood).

James Brown, "Untitled", mixed media.

One grouping of James Brown's sticks resembles a bundle of cattails. In another he burns, stains and varnishes the sticks, attaches various metal shapes to one end, then neatly wraps both ends with bright yellow string. A series of metal rods in progressively more upright positions compose another group. In all these clusters each stick is distinctly different from the others, yet it is the similarities that are first apparent. Only after we define them as a collection do we begin to examine their differences--for example, to note the variety of metal shapes attached to the ends. And it is these two tendencies, to sort and classify, as well as to recognize an independent object within a group, that Brown is exploring (Simayspace Gallery, San Diego).


Richard Artschwager extends his fascination with appearances, surfaces and veneers, both literal and metaphorical, to shipping crates. Though conspicuously resembling their roughhewn counterparts that usually stay in galleries only long enough for unpacking, Artschwager's delicately crafted crate/sculptures get to stick around. They assume self-conscious poses and play upon precedents and legacies from Duchampian ready-mades to self-absorbed minimalist objects, as well as from the traditional reclining figure to Magritte's usurpation of the figure with a coffin. What might seem a grouping of one-liners actually contains a cargo of engaging double-entendres and quandaries about image, object, material, content, packaging and posture (Burnett Miller Gallery, Santa Monica).

Fern Phillips' paintings are devoted to images of life as it existed, unblemished, long ago and far away "when the world was young." A master colorist whose palette glows with energy and vitality, Phillips composes her paintings from a full spectrum of color that radiates from within and shimmers in the sun. Sometimes the colors vibrate like French Impressionism; other times the paint looks lumi- nous like silk embroidered tapestries; always the effect is dazzling. Surrounded by scenes of pristine landscape and unsullied wilderness, viewers sense intuitively why this surrealistic series is called "Source" (Senior Eye Gallery, Long Beach).
Tony Tasset displays two works here. One is a cast sculpture of a carved-out pumpkin. It sits on the floor, and is uncanny in its veracity. When juxtaposed with the photograph that accompanies it, a life-sized photograph of Tasset dressed up to be a rock-and-roll star, specifically Neil Young, the works become something else. At once funny and disturbing, they call into question issues of photographic truth as well as sculptural tromp l'oeil. In the front gallery are a large selection of works by Linda Burnham, a well-known Los Angeles painter whose works layer abstraction and representation in challenging and innovative ways (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).
Dennis Hopper is a movie star. But he is also an artist. The works on view represent work done over a number of years. In the middle of the gallery is a video installation consisting of clips from three of Hopper's films. They represent the period when he was not making artworks. The large photographs in the mainspace are abstractions of walls taken all over the work. Enlarged to life-sized proportions these fragments of reality show us the sensitivity and alertness of Hopper's gaze. The other works in the show include a sculpture from the 1960's and computerized film clips (Fred Hoffman Gallery, Santa Monica).
Mark Morrisroe's photographs are a bleak diaristic look at his life. He recorded his friends and himself, taking millions of polaroids to document his surroundings. This exhibition contains almost 200 pictures, taken in domestic setting between 1977 and 1989, the year he died. Like many of his contemporaries, specifically Nan Golden and Jack Pierson, Morrisroe used photography not only to document his life but as a visual diary to record his feelings and relationships to those that surrounded him (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).