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Sam Francis, "Blake's Tomb," acrylic on paper, 72 x 36", 1989.

Sam Francis was a prolific painter whose abstract works fill even the most expansive museum spaces. Over the course of his career Francis moved away from abstract expressionist and color field works to a splatter style all his own. His deep blues, bright yellows, reds and oranges pop off his canvases. The exhibition traces his development from the early 1940s to his last works created in the 1990s. Francis’ extraordinary success allowed him to also become a major contributor to Los Angeles’ art scene beyond his achievements as a painter. He found Lapis Press in 1984, and served as a founding Board member of MOCA. This exhibition gives viewers the opportunity to gain a strong sense of the impressive scope of his career (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Geffen Contemporary, Downtown).

Eva Hesse, "Untitled," black ink wash and pencil on paper, 11 3/4 x 9", 1966.

Robert Smithson, "Spiral of Cinnabar," graphite on paper, 18 7/8 x 24 1/4", 1970. Photo: Brian Forest.

Afterimage: Drawing through Process provides convincing evidence as to how and why the conceptual and process oriented works created by artists working in the 1960s and 1970s have so powerfully influenced many artists working today. Their interest in numbering systems, the universe, the earth and other systems both natural and man-made were described through drawings such as these. The works here are often sketches that envision larger installations, and offer viewers insights into both their thought process and to the concerns prevalent at the time. It is not often that ones gets to see exceptional drawings by Sol Lewitt, Eva Hess, Mel Bocher and Robert Smithson at the same time, in a context that makes sense with respect to what these artists works were about (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Downtown).

Claude Cahun (Lucy Schwob), "M.R.M.
(Sex)", gelatin silver print, ca. 1929-30.

Catherine Opie, "Angela Scheirl,"photo-
graph, 1993. Courtesy of Regen Projects.

Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the Twentieth Century
is an expansive exhibition that presents the work of many women photographers working during the last 100 years. The exhibition moves from the early to the contemporary, exploring themes from the self portrait, to the photograph as documentary evidence, to the more experimental attempts at creating photographic collages and abstractions. Among the many notable photographers represented in the exhibition are: Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbott, Eileen Cowin, Helen Levitt, Catherine Opie, Carrie Mae Weems and Cindy Sherman (UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art, West Los Angeles).

Eleanor Antin's retrospective exhibition presents her varied works in chronological order. Best known for her series of photographic postcards sent out as a mail art piece tracing the adventures of 100 black boots, she has been creating performances, photographs, videos, films and installations for the past 30 years. These often autobiographical works explore narrative themes dealing with the role of women in ancient to contemporary society. Ideas in her early works influenced artists like Cindy Sherman, who in her turn made a career out of creating photographic masquerades. Antin, always the performer, stages mis en scenes as well as photographic fictions through which both real and fictitious characters perform. The exhibition is carefully orchestrated, it’s rooms stylized to show off particular aspects of the works. This is an exhibition filled with surprises, one that takes time to look at and understand, but it is well worth the effort (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).

Eleanor Antin, "100 Boots in a Field",
from "100 Boots", black & white
picture postcard, 4 1/2 x 7", 1971-73.

Peter Wegner is a painter who makes use of a simple idea to create complex paintings. Wegner makes paintings of color chips like those one gets in a paint store--yet rather than simply present what he finds, he juxtaposes colors and paint names so as to create visual and textual poetry. Vertical and horizontal compositions are carefully painted on plywood. Their surfaces are smooth, the lettering perfect. Wegner does not simply present what he finds at the paint store. He alters the names, or blots them out, leaving the viewer to ponder the color references. Language, both present and absent, directs the meaning of the works. In addition to the paintings a number of works on paper and three books that contextualize his art in other ways round out this fine show (Griffin Contemporary Art, Venice).

The Reverend Ethan Acres, a Las Vegas-based artist, creates installations and objects having to do with the Scriptures and his interpretation of them. Here he fashions a number of mechanical animals, such as locusts and pigs, and places them in the gallery alongside a Biblical quotation. Acres' works have the funkiness of outsider art, yet possess a full awareness of what they are and the context in which they are seen. Nonetheless, Acres has the ability to fabricate intricate and compelling objects. They convey a serious message, though delivered through the theatricality of art (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

For his first solo exhibition Glen Kaino has created a fascinating installation that references Los Angeles’ downtown culture and beach culture as well. Entitled Scratch, Kaino presents a number of color photographs, most displaying goldfish swimming in a tank. While the fish might represent containment, Kaino's real point is to talk about the apparatus, both hidden and visible, of creating both artworks and elaborate films. Kaino lives in downtown Los Angeles and has commented on how often his surroundings are used in film shoots. He relocates the lights and props used in film shoots to make the illusion real in the gallery, creating an undersea work that is a self-contained system. Pipes and tubes carry water to and from a series of tanks that contain a model city that is underwater, laid to rest like the Titanic, but still viewable within Kaino's device. Furthering the water reference, a number of odd-shaped boogie boards appear as abstract compositions of three-dimensional forms on the gallery wall (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).

Ferrara’s best painter in the early sixteenth century may have been Dosso Dossi (1486?-1542), and this exhibition makes the case. But given his contemporaries at the center of the Renaissance universe he has been relegated mainly to the memories of academic specialists. Starting with a stunning color palette of liquid saturation and dramatic contrasts, Dossi’s interpretation of nature and the human figure fits the time but offers both visual flavor and narrative approaches (at times decidedly humorous) reflecting a blend of influences that set him apart. While not quite matching the established greatness of Raphael or Titian, Dossi must be regarded as a welcome addition to the public memory of Renaissance Italy (J. Paul Getty Museum, West Los Angeles).