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Anita Dube, “Black Moon,”
terra cotta/velvet/artificial hair,
22 x 22 x 140 cm, 1998.
Host gallery, Patricia Correia.

Patricia Correia Gallery (Santa Monica) brings four artists from India, the most compelling of which has an MA in art criticism (and still manages to make some fine work). Anita Dube has shown in the UK extensively as well as in France and Norway. She is the youngest among this group, but brings a mature sense of craft, economic conceptual means, and stays away from compromising subtext. Black Moon is a lustrous terra cotta and velvet doughnut out of which cascades fake, jet black, Asian-looking hair. The work touches in the most subtle and smart way on high vs. low art, on public vs. private body, on the tacit exploitation of gender and otherness whenever we deal with accepted notions of beauty.

Bearing out the ‘tried and true’ trend, Couturier Gallery (West Hollywood) shows Raúl Corrales. Like Alvarez-Bravo in Mexico, Corrales is one of Cuba’s long-reigning master photographers. Coming from an impoverished background, Corrales was working as a bellhop when he got his first camera. Innate skill together with the dramatic events leading to the change of power in Cuba fed his career. He was there to record the pre-Castro disparities, the handing over of land titles to the campesinos, the popular militias under Castro, the Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. Like Cartier Bresson or Brassaï Corrales states that the key is to distinguish the snapshot record from the eternal moment. La Habana [1960] captures a platoon of socialist peasant soldiers, each in their identical straw hats and bayonets, looking from a viewpoint above at an angle like so many poppies in the wind. Beautyrest, from the pre-Castro days, shows two tender children sleeping in a tattered hammock. One of our most beloved debauchers, Ernest Hemmingway kept his boat in Cojimar, where Corrales still lives; he was a dear friend of the artist. You’ll see images of Hemmingway and some morbid shots of the author’s home as it was found after his suicide.

Raúl Corrales, "La Habana,"
gelatin silver print, 1960.

Raúl Corrales. "E. Hemingway,"
Cojimar", gelatin silver print, 1950.

Gustavo Pérez, "Untitled"
ceramic vessel, 1999.
Noted Mexican ceramist Gustavo Pérez appears at Frank Lloyd Gallery (Santa Monica). Exhibited widely in Japan, Denmark, France, Switzerland, and with a one-person retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City pending, who can argue? Pérez shapes his vessels by hand into organic shapes that evoke, but don’t really suggest things like tree bark or primitive cave markings. These vessels look like a fusion of indigenous artifacts to modern aesthetics, like an antidote to the mechanistic, computer-driven reality of Y2K.

Cirrus Gallery (Downtown) apparently figures that if you sweep from the minimal to the sexy you’re sure to catch every predilection. Though neither of their selected artists are English, both are the selections of the Rocket Gallery in London’s Jonathan Stephenson (hey, that’s how the zany International works!). Belgian artist Jus Juchtsmans shows sonorous, smoky, abstract fields (imagine sfumato technique rolled up with Turner and Rothko) of up to six feet done in acrylic and varnish. Portuguese artist Agusto Alves da Silva photographs out-of-context car parts taken in Ferrari showrooms and factories. He gives us workers, uniforms, swatches of bright Grand Prix red metal, stipped breakpedals, gutted interiors in visual snippets. The effect is best be described as heavy metal slick.

Carl Michael von Hausswolf and
Leif Elggren, “Elgaland &
Vargaland,” installation at the
Audiehu-Schiptjeuko Gallery,
Stockhom, Sweden, April, 1993.
Host gallery, Robert Berman.
Robert Berman laughingly notes that he has nothing for sale in the exhibition he is hosting at his Santa Monica gallery. The wry virtual embassy on view, The Kingdoms of Elgaland & Vargaland, is the brainchild of a couple of conceptual artists, Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren, who emanate from anti-nationalistic Sweden. The artists have, over the years, installed odd virtual scenarios --mixtures of computers, viewer participation, and installation art. This project began when the artists decided to build a virtual kingdom in the early ‘90s. In the quasi-serious/quasi-wry vain of conceptualism the duo issue passports, design flags, write national anthems, hold diplomatic conferences to discuss world strife, offer citizenship applications. . . . As part of their virtual imperium the two virtual heads of state need embassies, and they have set up (not to mention sent up) loopy variations on that theme in Amsterdam, Basil, New York City, Milan, London, San Francisco--and now in Santa Monica. Think of Jeffrey Vallance’s mid-’80s sensibility aided and abetted by Microsoft.