Claude Monet, "Water Lilies (Nympheas)," o/c,
78 3/4 x 70 7/8", 1916-1919.
Courtesy the collection of the Musée Marmottan,
Paris/© Photographie Giraudon.

What makes Monet: Paintings of Giverny from the Musée Marmottan particularly intriguing is the length the curators have gone to provide context for the twenty-two late paintings by The Eye. Derived from the private garden famously grown in order to paint, they remain among the watersheds of the art of this century. A group of caricature sketches done in his teens addresses the native talent on which Monet constructed his career. A group of mature paintings outline the trajectory of his Impressionist achievement and set the stage for Giverny. Giverny has also been depicted by a host of later artists (to this day a fellowship program brings a few in for extended stays annually), and a group of American Impressionists represent those paying homage to the master. Then the impact of Monet's well documented interest in Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints will be represented by a selection from the Museum's collection. Finally--whew!--photographs documenting the family and their life at Giverny, along with photomurals of the property as it appears today round out what may prove to be the summer's unofficial Blockbuster (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).

Stencils used by Japanese craftsmen to fashion rice paste resist kimono textile patterns have been collected by Westerners since Commodore Perry opened Japan to trade. The rhythmic, asymmetic, geometric and nature patterns with complex figure/ground relationships, often featuring strong diagonals, became a major influence on European fine art and crafts movements. Carved Paper: The Art of the Japanese Stencil features dozens of stunning mulberry paper stencils, waterproofed with persimmon tannin and reinforced with silk to keep their intricate patterns from falling apart under repeated soakings. Samples of razor sharp carving tools, pattern books and finished textiles help to make the process understandable, but the incredible beauty of the katagami (pattern paper), has to be seen to be believed (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara).

Kenny Scharf, "Planetazul," o/c, 42 x 54", 1998.

The fun-science loopiness that defines Kenny Scharf's paintings have always served to deflate the high-art pretensions of surrealist cosmology, while inflating cartoon juvenalia. However you read these works, you get tugged at in the opposite direction. The simple visual pleasure of Scharf's solid graphic skills is rooted in his layering of elements and the way they swing through the inventive spaces like monkeys through trees. As though Francis Picabia had invented Gumby, the familiar memories of a childhood influenced by Disney and Warner Bros. are recast to move you forward (Kantor Gallery, West Hollywood).

Guillermo Bert, "Cave Drawing: Bison," mixed media on paper, 15 1/2 x 18 1/2", 1997.
Courtesy the collection of Barbara and George Mayer.


During his nearly twenty years working in Los Angeles, Chilean Guillermo Bert has addressed environmental and social concerns consistently in his art. He assumes the role of a social anthropologist examining the impact of society from a removed perspective. This ten-year survey includes selections from several series of works: Altar/Temple (1988-90), Toxic Landscape (1991-92), L.A. Sites/Cave Art (1995-97), and L.A. Sites/Fossils (1997-98). Stylistically, Bert engages in a fluid electicism that pays homage to a host of influences, while trying to coalesce them into something distinct. There exists a poignant balance between a predominantly pessimistic take on the direction of our current state of affairs that is played against an affirmative feeling for the world's inhabitants whom he represents in his paintings (Palos Verdes Art Center, South Bay).

Joseph Santarromana and Erika Sunderburg, from "Three Ambient Gardens," mixed media installation, 1998.

Access All Areas is a compelling exhibition that includes new installations by Joseph Santarromana, Erika Suderburg, Betty Lee and Glen Kaino. Each artist has created a new work that enlivens the space it occupies. Santarromana and Suderburg have collaborated to create three environments where viewers can sing Karoake. Lee exhibits a large scale image suspended from the ceiling, and Kaino's multi-faced, multi-media installation presents souped-up fish tanks as well as a home-video. As part of the exhibition, a Web site has also been created that can be seen at (Doizaki Gallery, JACCC, Downtown).

Mariko Mori, "Burning Desire," from Nirvana, glass with photo interlayer
(5 panels), 120 x 240', 1996-98.

is a unique 3-D video installation by the young artist Mariko Mori. Nirvana also includes four billboard-sized, digitally composited photographs encased in glass that use images from the stereoscopic video along with an acrylic sculpture in the shape of a lotus titled Enlightenment Capsule. Miko no inori (The Shaman-Girl's Prayer), a 2-D video from 1994, features Mori as an alluring yet distant cyborg within the ultra high-tech environment of Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Nirvana, completed in 1997, signals a shift in Mori's work toward a meditative spirituality that combines the Buddhist tradition with a futuristic impetus. It is a beautifully realized sequence of stereoscopic images that move gracefully out into the confines of the gallery space with computer-generated cartoon sprites, wisps of light and floating spheres, as gentle music lulls the viewer. Shot within the awe-inspiring landscape of the Dead Sea, Nirvana is pleasing and intriguing, timeless in appeal with something for everyone (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], West Hollywood).

Gary Simmon's drawings, presented under the title If Memory Serves, are enigmatic blurs. These works, first drawn in either chalk or charcoal and then erased, depict boarded up windows, passing trains, lanterns and stations. Each image evokes a memory--an event, a time or a place that is familiar and almost within grasp. What appears in Simmon's imagery is mostly gone. A ghost of its former self. They are drawn and then wiped away, leaving only a trace--a memory --of their existence (Margo Leavin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Maxwell Hendler's monochromatic works are textureless rectangles carefully crafted so as to remove all trace of the artist's hand. Layers of tinted resin are applied to masonite then sanded and polished to give the works a mirror-like shine. Their colors, somber tones like salmon and pale yellow, draw you in and keep you there, marveling at the seductiveness of the surface. Also on view are two sculptural works by Blue McRight. Made of grass, these works juxtapose manipulated natural elements to create geometric patterns and shape. McRight presents one interior work and one outside sculpture (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

Lewis Baltz, "Ronde de Nuit," photo mural, 1992. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Lewis Baltz is perhaps best known for his photographic works of California's industrial parks, exhibited under the rubric of New Topographics. In these large scale photographic works he presents images from the media as large montages where new meaning is created through the juxtapositions. Entitled New Technologies Series these images explore themes relating to power, the media and technology, and how those images shape our view of the world (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

Clement Hanami, "Fat Man and Little Boy," installation, 1998.

Clement Hanami's exhibition entitled Fat Man and Little Boy is a complex and compelling installation that explores the themes of nuclear radiation and genetic manipulation with aesthetic grace and conceptual refinement. The works--sculptures, paintings, photographs and assemblages--coordinate to articulate Hanami's exploration. Fruit flies are photographed and presented alongside test tubes. Hanami's installation appears to be part science project and part art show, and an underlying political message cannot be overlooked (Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies [LACPS], Hollywood).