In Common Threads, five artists create original, non-traditional three-dimensional constructions with fiber. Lynn Kubasek creates Truth Flies South, an installation composed of 3,000 plus paper cranes suspended from transparent strings. The birds are caught in mid-air, as if in a frozen moment. Their bodies, made from random newspaper articles are Kubasek's way to question whether truth is like a flock of birds that follow mass instinct. Prentiss Cole creates poetic wall sculpture by draping hardware store-type materials such as cheesecloth or aluminum screening. Scott Katano uses wool fleece stained with common liquids such as coffee or wine. He places these colored poufs in rectangular enclosures producing enticing wall sculpture. Jose Lozano paints thought-provoking words and stories onto blankets, basing these on imagery unique to Mexican comics and cinema. Antoinette Geldun creates tarps and other inventive coverings for automobiles. Kim MacConnel deals with life's oddities and incorporates fabric paintings and junk sculptures just to make us laugh. And Roger Campbell collects discarded mattresses and paints over them to fuse the stains and stuff of human existence (Irvine Fine Art Center, Orange County).

Enrique Martinez Celaya, "Powers and Dominions," oil/graphite/rosepetals on paper, 72 x 48", 1997.


Enrique Martinez Celaya's works are beautifully executed. They are subtle and soft. Isolated heads that float magestically in the space of the page, both figurative and asbstract, cause these works to fall between categories. The accompanying book of poems and artworks adds another dimension to these elegant works (Griffin Contemporary Exhibitions, Venice).

Suki Berg, "Self Portrait with Eagle", photo etching, 12 x 8 5/8", 1995.

This is a noble retrospective, of an octogenarian who, for over fifty years, has pursued her passion to make art. Curator Irini Vallera-Rickerson includes Suki Berg's full span of production--from modest art school portraits, years of bold painting and print-making, to Berg's current fascination with photo-etching. In this society that reveres the young, rapid results, and the sensational, it is refreshing to see an exhibition that demands respect for continual devotion to years of making art and the progression to mastery. Examples such as the moving earth-colored print, Dance Macabre is Berg at her best. Self-Portrait with Eagle sums up the artist and the exhibition. Berg stands, hands crossed, assured in the direction her life has taken. Her head merges with the head of an eagle. She is strong, fearless, and flying high (Orange Coast College Art Gallery, Orange County).

Robert Gober, Untitled Installation, mixed media, 1997.

A life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary skewered through the womb by a spiral water pipe just blocks from L.A.'s new Roman Catholic Cathedral-to-be has kept letters about Robert Gober's newest untitled installation flowing to the local papers. Despite the provocative imagery the work itself is more a quiet rumination on the disappointments of faith than a spectacle of apostacy. Like the Virgin, art's temple--the museum--is sliced open to release a literal tide of conflicting images of bartered dreams, purification, artiface and subversion. For once Gober's trademark drains are more than holes sucking emptiness: They are passageways (Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

Ernesto Neto is a Brazilian artist who makes abstract minimal sculptures. Using everyday materials such as panty hose, chalk as well as lead balls, Neto constructs abstract sculptures that make viewers acutely aware of the space they occupy. Also on view are drawings by Nayland Blake. Blake, who has used the rabbit as a theme for many of his works, continues to draw this animal and others making cartoon-like sketches that deal with contemporary issues including sexuality and race (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Ann Thornycroft, "Kona Song," cold wax and oil on canvas, 72 x 60", 1997.
Photo: Gene Ogami

The use of the grid as a prominent device in painting remains powerful because it provides artists with a means to construct an overall image enriched by a myriad of details which, themselves, may be of pictorial interest. Ann Thornycroft has remained fixed on this principle for about twenty years now, and her ability to blend the particulars of abstract mark into a rich, but digestible, visual whole is formidable. Her use of irregularly repeated shapes, intermittent colored shapes, lines and other devices call attention to visual "subplots" and obviously compelling rhythms that keep the eye jumping (Deanna Izen Miller Gallery, Venice).

Richard Neutra, "VDL Research House II", prismacolor, pastel on paper, 24 x 36", 1964

Exhibitions that feature an architect's plans, photos and artifacts from buildings that tend to contain rather than fit into galleries inevitably suffer from the weight of the absent originals that cannot be placed on exibit. The importance of the architect tilts such shows towards simply illustrating their creative and intellectual processes. Richard Neutra was a Viennese transplant who brought the International style with him to Los Angeles during the 1920s. The drawings and furniture prototypes shown here serve two quite separate functions. First, they are aids in the conceptual reconstruction of structures whose luxuriant, open airiness can only be implied. The drawings allow you to hover at an observational distance; the prototypes set you inside. Second, they serve as a reminder of Neutra's historical contribution and skill. The sheer range of not merely private homes but numerous civic buildings express his influence on Los Angeles, as well as reminding us just how much in demand he was throughout a lengthy career (Couturier Gallery, West Hollywood).

Airbrush: Contemporary Directions includes work from both illustrators and fine artists, but the distinction isn't always clear. Whether for commercial application or to satisfy the personal aesthetic of the artist, the commonality of this show is the use of a tool which can produce a fine line or a wide swath of color; light and shade; through layering, a near-photographic illusion of three-dimensions; or flat, direct cartoons. Jay Sagan's large abstractions suggest action painting in the movement of line and brush stroke, but the final effect is calm and meditative. Michael Wingo's large grid paintings play with light by the use of soft, layered hues against what might be broken window panes. Several other artists have imaginatively combined airbrush with other media such as photography or collage (Santa Ana College Art Gallery, and RSC Arts in the Santora Building, Orange County).

Pablo Picasso, La Source, drypoint, engraving; zinc, steelplated, watermarked paper, 1921.

This matchless selection of Pablo Picasso's graphics is a potpourri from many of the artist's noted periods. Passions abound for depicting human suffering, the creative act, the body, and masculine and feminine sexuality. It puts on display Picasso the master draftsman, who could create in a broad range of motifs and bring a unique freshness to traditional techniques.

Picasso often used graphic media as preliminary sketches for paintings. They allowed enormous experimentation before commitment to canvas. The earliest work in the exhibition is Le Repas Frugal (The Frugal Meal), in which a poor and emaciated couple recalls Picasso's haunting Blue Period paintings when he confronted poverty and universal pain in himself and others.

Sueno y Mentira de Franco (The Dream and the Lie of Franco) takes its form from the old Spanish Alleluia, a cartoon-like grid used to distribute sermons to the masses. Picasso's imagery, of doing battle with an evil monster, also accompanies his poem of the same name, which is not exhibited. Writing with graphic tools was a catharsis for the horror he felt at Fascist domination of Spain. It unleashed a profusion of prints, which led to his monumental painting Guernica.

In the latest work of the exhibition, Le Peintre et son Modele, Picasso is now an old and bearded painter who works at his easel. He studies the model before him, while another female, similar to the first, looks on, standing close to the artist. The two women are one. Picasso is still the vigorous male artist, while woman, in multiple forms, is seen as both the nurturer and the desired (OCMA, Newport Beach, Orange County).