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by Roberta Carasso

(L.A. Artcore, Downtown) This is an exhibition of two mature artists who bring a sharp eye and mind to their work. While their art and their media are distinct--one sculpture, one painting--both are politically minded and see art as a battlefield for controversy.

The first thing you notice about Joan Vaupen's sculptures is how exquisite they look and how meticulously they are formed. Vaupen thoughtfully creates individual transparent worlds that read as little shrines, where one might meditate and pay homage. However, these shrines are not intended to lead the viewer to nirvana. The beauty of the materials and the engaging construction captivate; but once past their outer pristine and reflective surface, they jolt our perceptions. We peer into each plexiglas world of disparate artifacts where Vaupen creates pointed political statements on big business and government who promote--to their advantage, by showing it is to our advantage--smoking, environmental hazards, and dysfunctional attitudes towards our bodies.

Vaupen's strength is that she entices us by using the same tactic powerful businesses use to capture our attention: Merchandising. Fragments of photos, actual remnants, and assorted artifacts are presented in an appealing display format. Thus, Vaupen's arguments easily convince us of the negativity inherent in each issue, in the same manner that manufacturers convince us of the virtues of their products.

Joan Vaupen, "Safe House,"
mixed media/plexiglas, 7 x 10 x 8".


Joan Vaupen, "Safe House,"
mixed media/plexiglas, 7 x 10 x 8".


Betty Sheinbaum, “Getting off
the Carousel,” oil/collage on
masonite, 30 x 40”, 1999


Betty Sheinbaum, “Paris Produce,"
mixed media on paper, 18 x 16, 1998.

In House Health Subcommittee--Tobacco, Vaupen attacks the tobacco industry's pitching their campaign to children by including such items as play dollars and snippets of Joe Camel images. PowerHouse is among the finest works. In it, Vaupen reveals one of America's greatest tragedies, atomic testing and its effects.

Betty Sheinbaum brings a rich history to her canvases. She was a very successful gallery owner, on two coasts, as well as a sculptor of welded steel, and a longtime political activist. Now she pours these experiences into her boldly painted collages. The subject matter may vary as Sheinbaum incorporates a variety of images she has encountered in travels throughout the world, but the thrust is always political as her work calls humanity to task.

Specifically, Sheinbaum deals with the ways America destroys both its environment and culture in its quest to "build a better mousetrap.” Two examples bear this out: The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden series and The Carousel series. In the first, Sheinbaum shows how their actions perpetually extricate human beings from the beauty they are given in order to contend in a world of chaos. While in the second, she shows their desire to be free from the inevitable limitations of havoc--the uncreative monotony of endless destruction--and run free in the Garden once more.