Lea Whittington, "Canalla (Mischievous),"
pink silk/cording/hardware, 23" dia. x 9", 1997.
By presenting sculptural forms derived from the decorative vernacular of the European Baroque Lea Whittington acquires license to, from a formal standpoint, run wild. She takes the post-modernist liking for requoting the historical in a context for which it was never intended to an extreme that demands us to notice. Once you look, each work tells its own distinct story. Entering the gallery might be a bit like that alien bar scene from Star Wars: a cacophony of novel forms and colors compete for your attention, and you can get excited at the prospect of trying to figure the whole thing out (Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica).
Elyn Zimmerman, "Inersection," mixed media installation, 1998.
Elyn Zimmerman's environmental sculpture fills its cavernous gallery space. It is made up of jagged pieces of reddish stone and what appears to be a ground-up version of the same substance. The rough pieces form two interlacing circles appearing like stone-hedge formations. The work rises from the gallery floor on two levels that beg to be entered. But there is no way in. The large stones block any possible passage, making the viewer walk in endless circles around the work. Also on view are wax-covered Iris prints that illustrate a poem by Octavio Paz (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).
Steve Hull, "My Face," acrylic/articifial flowers on canvas, 60 1/4 x 47 3/4 x 3 3/4", 1998.
In Steve Hull's new paintings he juxtaposes cliche forms like plastic flowers and Chinese lanterns in his painted works. Many of the paintings have plastic flowers attached to their surface. The flowers, rather than representing beauty, are dripped on or spray painted, crushed and destroyed. They function as three-dimensional elements that stick out from the flat paint-covered canvas. Although his paintings are well crafted they seem to be more about the history of abstract painting than the abstract landscapes to which they refer. In the front room of the gallery, Hull has stacked a number of more geometric abstractions that, combined together, make a single work. In this piece the viewer can delight in the juxtaposition of competing colors and vertical versus horizontal stripes. Also on exhibit is Kori Newkirk's wall piece in which the outline of a car has been created through small illuminated lights that emerge from carefully placed light fixtures (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).
Site Santa Monica is a memorial exhibition organized to call attention to the violent death of young Santa Monica teen Shevawn Geoghegan. The exhibition is divided into three parts. In the main gallery space, in addition to a replica of the memorial made by her friends on the site where Shevawn died, are works addressing violence and abuse made by runaways and street kids from Santa Monica who came together to commemorate the loss of their friend. The center gallery features exquisite light box photographs, entitled The Killer in Me Is the Killer in You, of these same teenagers taken by artist Daniel Martinez. The final gallery hosts a collaborative installation made by students from SciArc and the Heart Project documenting teen violence in L.A. This moving and chilling exhibition presents personal as well as more objective accounts of the random violence that today's teens, even those living in Santa Monica, are at times forced to contend with (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).
Bob Sanov, "Treetrunk and Roots," photograph.
Firmly rooted in the tradition of examining nature so as to extract images of pure, often abstract, formal beauty, the black and white photographs of Bob Sanov are masterful. Trees, dunes, rock formations by turns become craggy, fleshy, dramatically toned visual poems. He draws the maximum clarity and drama from natural light to offer us images capable of banging around in your head for a long time. Tanya Ragir's sculpture provides a good foil, drawing on figurative forms that are recast into blocks of landscape fragments. Rather than focusing on singular forms (which she does do at times), Ragir often places related variations next to one another, stacked on one another, or in grid structures. The expressive and imaginative valence is a bit monotone, yielding most of their "aha!" from the unexpected results that arise from the combinations of multiple elements (The Artists Gallery [T.A.G.], Santa Monica).
Ruben Ortiz Torres, "Bart Sanchez," oil on particleboard, 19 1/2 x 16", 1991.
For some time Southern California has served as cradle for a transplanted Latin American cultural community seeking to address its roots. Chicano art proclaimed itself an outsider art by embracing symbols connected to a motherland more remembered than experienced. American identity for the most energized artists, from Gronk to Daniel Martinez to Guillermo Gomez Pena, was regarded as a burden to be overcome; their discourse often takes the form of a redress of historical and political grievences. San Diego and Tijuana's collaborative biennial of commissioned public art, inSite, along with the times, has helped foster the emergence of artists like Ruben Ortiz Torres, a native of Mexico City who attended Cal Arts. He helps signal a new direction that favors cultural fusion over reclaimation. The title of his sprawling, multi-faceted survey show, Desmothernismo, itself invents a term that grafts the idea of Latin machismo to that of post-modern deconstructivist analysis. This doesn't mean that Ortiz Torres' work slips comfortably into the contemporary mainstream, simply contributing some nice new Mexican source material. The term "Alien" is constantly popping up in images and titles. His single most identifiable work to date, Alien Toy, is a custom-made truck (built with Salvador Munoz) that breaks into a series of crazily moving fragments. Toyota instantly transformed into Tanguely! There are puppets with paintings, films, installations, even a tasty series of stitched baseball caps that consistly reflect the artist's search for source material in the popular culture of both the U.S. and Mexico that, for all its familiarity, becomes an entirely new thing (Huntington Beach Art Center, Orange County).
Barbara Hashimoto, "Gold from the Sea," ceramic/book/encaustic/gouache, 28 x 35", 1998.
Photo: Yoshi Hashimoto.
The content of Barbara Hashimoto's small scale mixed-media abstractions and books continues to grow out of her experiences living in Asia for nearly a decade. In a show last month at L.A. Artcore and another one here it is the historical Hindu practice of Sati, the ritual burning of a widow with a deceased husband, that binds the works together. One group featured in the first exhibition essentially commemorates a group of 15 widows who accompanied the Indian Maharaja Man Singh in 1843. A wall of handprints was all that physically preserved memory of this act until Hashi-moto created her kiln-fired homage. The second exhibition, titled Out of Context, consists of two series. One in effect transfers images selected from Hindu moral storybooks onto fired ceramic pages. In the other the artist justaposes text describing Sati with Hindi pulp fiction onto unfired ceramic. The intimacy of scale, restrained color of the "pages," and delicate surface intricacies serve to mute emotionalism in favor of quiet reflection. Eschewing drama as she does has the beneficial result of permitting your personal response to the subject matter by way of your aesthetic reading of the ceramic objects, rather than being forced by her visual rhetoric. This allows your feelings to become more your own (Gallery Soolip, West Hollywood).
How does an artist integrate new technology and viewer participation into an innovative installation? George Legrady's installation, Tracings, attempts to bring technology to the museum-goer, giving them complex images and an inviting method of presentation to look at. Within the darkened room, Legrady has erected a wall onto which images are projected. On one side viewers control what they can see by moving through the projection via a mouse. The changing images on the other side are activated by movement sensors within the room. The work addresses both technology and "techno" culture as juxtaposed to the more historic attitudes towards cultural production prevalent in eastern Europe through the presentation of written, spoken, and projected images and texts (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).
Laura Owen's new paintings are large works that combine abstraction and representation. The paint that covers the canvas ranges from a sparse covering of gesso or a single color to a more goopy layering of thick paint. In one work, the only diptych in the exhibition, Owens depicts a thin tree that moves up the side of one canvas off the top, only to reappear halfway down the second panel. The paintings are atmospheric in their depiction of nature and seductive in their application of paint (Acme Gallery, West Hollywood).
Prowler is the title given to the new paintings by Christopher Pate. Each of these small abstract works plays with foreground and background relationships. The paintings, done on paper, are then mounted onto board. Each painting is surrounded by a white frame that echoes a shape within the interior of the work. The white functions as a transition from wall to work and separates as well as emphasizes the complex layering of shapes and colors contained within the painting's frame (Miller Durazo, West Hollywood).