Guido di Pietro, called Fra Angelico, "Madonna and Child with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Alexandria,", oil on panel, 24.4 x 18.7 cm, c. 1435. Photo courtesy of the Vatican Museums, Rome.

In Angels from the Vatican, it is possible to see works of art which have never been out of the Vatican before, and to consider the long history of interpreting these invisible entities. Not surprisingly, they generally are winged beings, but after that the multitude of visual solutions is surprisingly vast. In part, this is because the work comes from traditions in Eastern and Central Europe, so there are different ways of rendering the icons of the Faith; but it is also in relationship to subject matter, as in the difference of the angels of the Annunciation to those of the revelations. Amidst this plethora of painted images, there are many beautiful works: they range from larger canvases to smaller prepared panels, and include a rare Burial of the Virgin and some exquisite work by Rafael. There are a few sculptural works, including stone work and two very powerful metalworks consisting of a gilded scepter and miter upon which sculpted angels have been affixed. While not sticking to a specific chronological ordering, Angels gives an extremely convincing overview of the history of envisioning these essential and invisible messengers from god (UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art, West Los Angeles).

Nancy Kyes, "Chakra #1," mixed media, 1996. Photo: Susan Einstein.

Curated by Catherine Lord and featuring the mixed media work of ten different Southern California artists, Trash, in the Municipal Art Gallery, is an ephemeral collection of varied art that is intriguing and amusing. The kicker to this show is in the Junior Arts Center Gallery, an exhibit titled Related Matter by Nancy Kyes. Here is a virtuoso demonstration of what the art of assemblage can be. For her unifying theme the artist has taken the Chakras or the seven energy points in the human body derived from the ancient Sanskrit teachings. The solar plexus chakra, for example, is yellow, symbolizes emotion, and has been called the "garbage pail of the soul." This is where our accumulated history of emotions is stored. The artist has fittingly selected her colors and objects to express these ideas. A large freestanding piece, The Border Between Two Orders, is a masterwork that uses trash as an evocative symbol conjoining past and future (Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood).

Wes Christensen, "Kore (2)" (After Eakins), watermedia/pencils, 9 1/2 x 3 3/4", 1994.


The Drawing Group: An Emerging School of Los Angeles? takes the traditional high road. Since 1993 the Group has gathered at sculptor John Frame's studio. Their dedication to figurative drawing skills in an art world environment that does not exactly nurture them is what caught the attention of gallery director Gordon Fuglie. The Drawing Group artists make the point that acumen and facility in rendering can be requisite, valuable, but not elite in spirit. Several dozen works by the thirteen artists are exhibited in a recreation of Frame's East L.A. studio, plus additional works by the Group prove diverse enough to value good limning whether in pristine studies of nude males by F. Scott Hess, by Batman comic book artist Brian Apthorp or by Stephen Dean Moore, director of animation for TV's The Simpsons. It suggests that a more than superficial understanding of the forms and cadences of the human figure are the basis of both sound popular and high art (Loyola Marymount University, Laband Gallery, West Side).

Joseph Bertiers, "Mobutu Must Go!," oil on wood, 48 x 59 3/8", 1997.


Dateline Kenya: The Media Paintings of Joseph Bertiers features the cartoon-like works of this Kenyan artist. Unschooled and self-taught, Bertiers makes political and social satires that use the media as a point of departure. His carefully painted works depict scenarios and fantasies sprinkled with textual commentary about both African and American Culture. It is striking that the initial impression of a reasonably capable folk artist gives way to knowledgable and incisive takes on current events. They also provide a mild jolt by virtue of the practically local familiarity with us that contemporary media have apparently imparted on this Kenyan. We know what global communication means in the abstract; here we see it. Also on view is an exhibition of contemporary African Art entitled Crossings--Time, Space, Movement (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Arne Svenson, "Wm Brown, Resisting an Officer," silver gelatin photograph from the Original Glass Plate Negative of Clara Smith (active 1901-1908), 1998.


Prisoners is an exhibition by Arne Svenson of re-printed glass plate negatives taken by Clara Smith, who was active between 1901-1908, and the Studio of C.C. Green, who was active from 1908-1915. These images depict young men who were convicted of crimes--grand larceny, theft, etc. Each man (most of them mere boys) were photographed straight on and at a three-quarter pose. White lettering on top of each image describes their crimes. These works are quite compelling both for the information present and absent. We are given the who and the what but don't know the when, where, why, and how (Jan Kesner Gallery, West Hollywood).

Derek Murray, "Untitled," acrylic on panel, 36 x 84", 1997.


Color Me Mine is a group exhibition curated by Michelle Guy and Steve Criqui. This exhibition explores the place where abstract painting and sculpture meet. The works come off the wall and onto the floor. They invite the viewer to explore surface, texture as well as space and enliven the gallery through their interaction. The artists include: Steven Hull, Heidi Kidon, Perry Meigs, Derek Murray, Brad Spence and Pam Strugar (LACE, Hollywood).

Julius Shulman, "Chuey House, Los Angeles, Richard Neutra, 1956", photograph, 1958.

Now in his late 80s, architectural photographer Julius Shulman is perhaps one of the most respected pliers of this particular artform. Though eminent photographers include architecture in their body of work, Shulman made the subject his primary concern. His innate instinct for edge, space, mass and, yes, the emotional resonance of inanimate boxes are evident here. You well see 85 of the best works from Shulman's career, pulled mainly from the artist's archives and dating from the 1930s through the '70s. Like all photography with the power to stop time, this show takes you through L.A.'s various growing phases, takes you back to the pre-strip mall era, preserving lost, fading or transformed landmarks (such as the gorgeous late '20s Bullocks building on Wilshire Blvd., now occupied by Southwestern Law School) as they once were (USC, Fisher Galleries, Downtown).

Mathew Barney's work concerns itself with spectacle. His installations over the past few years have transformed the gallery space into an array of relics, the remains of an unseen performance or event. These elaborate performances have now been transformed into films--the Creamaster Series. Creamaster 1 took place in a stadium, Creamaster 4 on the Isle of Man and Creamaster 5 in an opera house in Budapest (significantly, the birthplace of Harry Houdini). His current exhibition presents photographs and drawings from the films. They depict Barney in the three roles he plays in the film--the Magician, the Giant and the Diva. In each role he is elaborately made up, and prosthetic attachments are added to his body. Both the stills and the film are highly stylized and somewhat disturbing. As in all Barney's work they exist someplace between fantasy and reality and are compelling and unsettling simultaneously (Regen Projects, West Hollywood).

A century ago Alphonse Mucha craved recognition as a painter, but he achieved fame for prints, posters, magazine covers, advertisements and nuances of his art nouveau style. From Gismonda to Medée to Hamlet, his portrayals of Sarah Bernhardt defined a new poster style. The single-character presentation and vertical format, so apt for display on the columns along Parisian sidewalks, imbue the figure of Bernhardt with an imposing strength. There is a familiar feel to this fin-de-siècle work. Mucha's name is today less recognizable than his style. Flowing garments and hair, flowers, circles that frame female figures like halos, entwined serpents all blend in an exquisite balance between decoration, sensuality and allusions to the mystical. Mucha's continuing presence in the popular culture, particularly during the 1960s, ends up making perfect sense (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).

It is worth the trip just to see what all the fuss is about. This exhibition of photographer Jock Sturges, well known in the media for his images of nude children, focuses on four bodies of work: pictures taken in Ireland, France, Northern California, as well as on a series of portraits of an individual. It is important when viewing Sturges' work to keep in mind why it is so controversial, and to consider why depictions of the nude body cause such a stir as to call into question the notion of freedom of expression. Sturges is a sensitive photographer who explores issues within photography that have a historical precedent--he is not creating pornography, merely capturing the innocence of children (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Seth Kaufman's ongoing series of minute and intricate cast resin works has been drawn into the dimension of color. In earlier works, made of squares that are essentially thin, cross sections were cut from a larger block of embedded dry organic elements such as shells, bones and seeds. A monochromatic hypnosis was the operational principle. Here there are layers of brightly colored strands of yarn-like material that insinuate themselves into the texture of the overall project with gleeful abandon. The quasi-archeological quality of the monochromes is transformed into a quasi-microbiological realm by the wavering lines of colored marks floating in the amber of the casting fluid. In one larger monochromatic work, overlays of clothes and embroidered patterns are illuminated from behind by a glowing light panel that disappears into the wall. In a newer colored work, patches of deep greens, blues and reds seem poised like phalanxes on the march. Always suspended between the pure delight he obtains in varying the mark-making that results from the material accretion, and the interpetive potential of the embedded objects, Kaufman creates eerie and beautiful microcosms (Miller Fine Arts, West Hollywood).