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Mabel Alvarez, "Self-Portrait," o/c, 23 3/8 x 19 1/2", 1925


Mabel Alvarez must be counted among a handful of artists who sewed the earliest seeds of modernism in Southern California. What recent surveys did to illuminate the contributions of Agnes Pelton and Henrietta Shore this one does for Alvarez. Her interest in Theosophy paralleled that of numerous avant garde thinkers and artists during the first three decades of the century (including Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian among many others), and pursuit of a spiritualized vision of painting developed out of this. While the influence of the locally prevalent California Impressionist style is visible in her work, the dreamy quality of Symbolist influence is crucial. Unlike her younger contemporaries Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg she did not embrace the newer forms of Surrealism, sticking more to a figuration broadly informed by Henri Matisse.
Please note that this exhibition moves from the current venue to the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach beginning May 1 (Loyola Marymount University, West Side).

The late Jim Bolin was a consummate artist for over fifty years, influenced by the conceptual and intellectual developments of the early New York avant garde and the automatic writing of Mark Tobey. He isolated the process of mark making, contemplating the mark itself in preference to its role in making an image. Delicate, meditative markings coexist with bravura Abstract Expressionist gesture. Compositions are unfragmented, formal and cohesive. Step back, and some of the work becomes atmospheric cloud formations, through each stroke, on closer examination, is separate and distinct. In some image a grid interrupts the intricate dots and dashes to shthmically come to life like notes on sheet music transformed into sounds. Large, expansive paintings of the 1980's investigated geometric form. Dark lines hold crusty paint, forming edges of squares or rectangles. Many artists will say that they cannot NOT be an artist; Bolin could not NOT be and artist. This art speaks for itself (Mount St. Mary's College, Jose Drudis-Biada Gallery, West Los Angeles).

Sue Ann Robinson, "Walking Fools",
mixed media, 72 x 72 x 36", 1987

Barbara Strasen, "Six Sided Table" (detail), acrylic and thread on fabric, 56 x 63", 1996.

It is nothing new, but it is always fascinating, when artists transform a gallery into an art studio and create a personal display that is constantly in flux. Sue Ann Robinson and Barbara Strasen are perfect for such a situation. Both their works are tactile and intimate. Strasen creates large wall murals of individually drawn or painted cutouts. Her work is intricate and complex, and above all, thoughtfully conceived. Connections, for example, is a mixed media piece of hefty cutout human and animal figures, resembling modern cave art. The shapes are painted a raw earth color and placed in random order on the white wall. The energy from the interplay of both negative and positive shapes is striking. Robinson, a book artist, expands the nature of a book. She transforms its non-dimensionality, which traditionally comes alive only in the reader's mind, to vibrant three-dimensional forms. Some works reveal all a book's hand painted pages at once. Others look at books as they die. Or, as in Walking Fools: Chapter One, the artist places each highly detailed page on a rack so that the totality of the book becomes a living sculpture (Santa Ana College Art Gallery, Orange County).

Peter Hujar, "Candy Darling on Her Deathbead", photograph, 1973.


Peter Hujar, a photographer who died of AIDS about ten years ago, photographed his friends and other artists who populated the East Village scene in New York during the 1980s. His black and white photographs of the famous, the infamous and the unknown articulate the compassionate way in which he was able to bring his camera between himself and his subject and make the camera disappear. His subjects reveal themselves in moments of pain and ecstasy, their actions uninhibited by the fact that they are being photographed (Stephen Cohen Gallery, West Hollywood).

Helen Levitt, "No Release," gelatin silver print, c.1940.
© Helen Levitt


Helen Levitt documented the streets of New York in the 1930s and ‘40s. Her black and white photographs depict children playing in the streets, graffitied walls as well as the industrialization of New York City. She was able to capture a time in flux, creating documentary photographs that exhibit not only an instinct for that perfect decisive moment, but also a sensitivity and understanding for the harsh reality that confronted many of her subjects (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Keisai Eisen, "Courtesan," color woodblock print, ca. 75 x 25 cm, c. 1820s.

Your awareness of relationships between Vincent Van Gogh and his perception of the art and culture of Japan is heightened in this companion exhibition to Van Gogh’s Van Goghs, Van Gogh and the Japanese Print. Especially informative are juxtapositions such as Keisai Eisen’s woodblock print Courtesan, placed alongside a reproduction of Van Gogh’s painting based on it. The dead white face of Eisen’s model becomes part of the ground, flattening the image and pushing the viewer’s focus towards the exquisitely fabricated flowing kimono. Van Gogh traced the image of Eisen’s Courtesan from the cover of a Parisian magazine. But he heightened the leer on the woman’s face, and activated and individualized her by positioning his replica on an ochre panel centered over a receding background of bamboo, waterlilies and cranes. Van Gogh idealized Japan as something of a socialist utopia, organized exhibitions of Japanese prints when in Paris, painted himself as a Buddhist monk, and wrote to Theo from Arles “. . .here I am in Japan.” Well yes, maybe, but like every tourist he brought along his own idiosyncrasies (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).

Minoru Yokoyama, "Spirit of Japan:
Light-Shadow-Detail," mixed media installation,
1999. Photo: Tomo Isoyama.


This is no ordinary art exhibit. The architectural setting constructed and the music written just for the show immediately put the viewer in a tranquil Zen-like mood, perfect for what is in store. The moving work of artist/designer Minoru Yokoyama is an eye-opener for Western sensibilities. It looks at symbolic representations of universal human relationships as expressed by the ancient art of wood joinery, a lost art now that Japan has succumbed to Western ways of construction. Yokoyama revitalizes this art form, which unites different woods into one whole without hardware or glue. His furniture--both functional and abstract sculpture--can be adapted to Japanese or Western usage. Wherever one looks there is something fascinating to see: Japanese words effectively painted on the walls and floor; changing slides of Japanese joinery; display cases, or Yokoyama's joined rings --for his and her; the ancient art of Japanese wrapping, which reveals a finely executed game based on complex wooden shapes players must assemble to win; and, most wonderful of all, Yokoyama's pure sculpture, made from joined columns of contrasting woods that throw graceful shadows on the wall. Everywhere there is profound beauty and timeless messages (Orange Coast College Fine Art Gallery, Orange County).

German artist Stephan Balkenhol creates sculptures from single blocks of wood. He chips and carves away at the raw material and what emerges is an expressive figure or animal form. His subjects range from portraits of a so called "every man" to the depiction of copulating animals. The sculpture and its base come out of the same block of wood, and are usually crudely painted--a shirt is white, pants are black, and the mouth is red. Skin usually remains the color of the wood. Balkenhol's works are truly amazing for their form, their skill, as well as for their content (Regen Projects, West Hollywood).

John Miller has been painting the same linear element over and over again in his work for years. In the current exhibition, Ritual, the methodical process of his work is clear. He paints a small diagonal line either in dark red or white upon the raw canvas and then repeats this line, only varying its direction. The resulting patterns and rhythms are both beautiful and awe inspiring. When seeing an entire exhibition of Miller's work one is struck by the paintings’ differences, and how something seemingly so similar could appear in so many variations (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

In Jo Ann Callis' paintings of dogs each animal displays his or her distinct personality. Callis carefully paints each animal from a photograph she took; either in full view or as a head shot. Titled by name it becomes clear that Teddy is quite different from Babe. Also on view are numerous small hand-painted photographs by Nancy Monk. Monk's works are enticing both because of their preciousness, and the way you are drawn in to decipher what part of the image is photographic from what is painted. In the third gallery are Laura Hull's formal black and white photographs of fragments of windows and other architectural details. These quiet works are both subtle and elegant and should not be overlooked (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

Hendrika Sonnenberg and Chris Hanson, "Fruit Bowl (Apples, Oranges and Melons)", 40 x 3/4 x 70".


In a large open gallery space New York artist Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg have created a sculptural work that flows from floor to ceiling. The white painted steel that Hanson and Sonnenberg use to make their sculpture moves off the wall to interrupt the space, traveling through the air, across the floor and up to the ceiling. Viewers must walk around, under, over and through the sculpture to view the entire work. In addition, Hanson and Sonnenberg also present photographs of more process-oriented works (similar in feel to the work of Fishli and Weiss) in their studio that relate to the main sculpture that dominates the space (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Hollywood).