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Robert Glenn Ketchem, "October 24, 1983/2:10 P.M.,"
silver dye-bleach (Cibachrome) print, 75 x 94 cm, 1983.

In a very unusual collaboration, landscape photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum and artists affiliated with the Suzhou [China] Embroidery Research Institute. Suzhou has been the capital of Chinese embroidery for about a millenium, and Threads of Light not only celebrates the marvelous virtuousity of both embroiderers and the photographer but provides insight into the optical interpretation of light. When you move between photographic image and the embroidery version of it you are seeing nothing less than a tour de force of artisanship taken up to the level of an art form. Some images lean heavily on traditional Chinese painting as their source (eg., The Beginning of Time); others draw on Ketchum’s own interest in dense space and dramatic contrast (eg., October 24, 1983/2:10pm). The mix speaks volumes about the sometimes inspiring effects of cultural exchange (UCLA/Fowler Museum of Cultural History, West Los Angeles).

Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute, "October 24, 1983/2:10 P.M." (detail), random stitch embroidery. Photo: Don Cole.

Pol Bury "21 Boules sur 3 Plans,"
wood, 23 5/8 x 5 7/8", 1997.

Works by Belgian sculptor Pol Bury, whose fountains have been commissioned for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Governor’s Palace in Antwerp, and the Palais Royal (Paris), includes here steel fountains (Sept Spheres dans Une Demi-Sphere [1987]), wooden wall pieces, drawings and paper collage that reveal the depth of his active, imaginative geometric and abstract language. Movement, mechanical in the wooden wall pieces, light and shadow on the pure curvalinearity of the steel fountains, conveys both the perceptual dimensions and the playful elegance associated with this master's works (Louis Stern Fine Arts, West Hollywood).

Larry Bell, "Fraction #5371," mixed media
on watercolor paper, 10 x 10", 1999.

The galleries are bulging with literally hundreds of small abstractions that Larry Bell has been producing for years. Whether they are they exercises, studies, the remains of other projects, or carefully planned and executed finished products becomes unimportant in the experience of seeing. Viewed individually they are a testament to the exhuberant vitality that comes from an outstanding artist’s deep wellsprings of visual curiosity. Then, shown in a continuous row together as they are, we also get to back away and see them as a whole, like a moving line of luminous dots, that is remarkably solid even given the obvious infinite possible choices in the arrangement. This nicely conveys the give and take of artmaking (Kiyo Higashi Gallery, West Hollywood).

The Abject Edge is a group exhibition curated by Mat Gleason, editor of Coagula. The works in the exhibition are figurative, and explore issues relating to the body and its abject (low, low-down, miserable) qualities. Notable among the works in the show are Skip Arnold's photographs, in which he transforms his body into something else by covering it or by striking a pose such as that of a gargoyle. The resulting pictures ask viewers to suspend their preconceived ideas of the human form. Aside from Yolanda Macias McKay's soap figures, the rest of the works in the exhibition consist of paintings by Kim Dingle, Phil Bower, Diane Gamboa and Carl Pope (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica).

James Weeks, “Untitled (Interior with Armchair)," charcoal/wash on paper mounted on board, 24 x 21”, n.d.

Drawings in conté, graphite and charcoal wash by the late James Weeks (1922-1998) depict the female figure, still lifes and interiors dating from the late 1960’s. Important as expressions for their own sake, Weeks’ drawings also gain significance because his paintings were based on composites of drawings and studies. Weeks first gained prominence during the ‘50s in association with the Bay Area figurative painters. He later taught at UCLA and Boston University. The drawings here are examples from drawing sessions held with contemporaries such as Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff. They reflect his concern with formal issues. All elements, figures included, are subject to the whole composition. This lends his work a cool, detached and disciplined look (Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery, Orange County).

Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Queen Charlotte's
Ball, London," photograph, ©1959.

This selection of recent prints taken from the vintage photography that Henri Cartier Bresson originally shot during the 1930’s, ‘40s, and ‘50s are quintessential images. No matter how many times they are exhibited we are still delighted to see them. This exhibition reflects his interest in the dispossessed, the weird and the elegant in China, Spain, Africa, India, Italy, and the streets of Harlem. He rendered the common large, and brought our icons back to human scale. There is a beautiful and relaxed Marilyn Monroe here, the aged Alfred Stieglitz in repose, an elderly Henri Matisse affirmatively surrounded by white doves. Alongside the classic Bresson images we are already familiar with, such as the young boy proudly lugging two enormous bottles of wine home from the corner shop, there is a rare and very sensual nude, and a magnificent image of black and white wild horses echoing the blanched and black trunks of forest trees in a snow-covered field (Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica).

Manuel Alvarez Bravo is still with us at age 98, and is still in his studio printing daily. His rarely seen abstractions, exhibited here under the title Espacios y Formas--spaces and forms --may be the most strictly Modernist works the artist ever produced. Bravo evolved in the environment of the 1920’s, during which time Mexican art was tied to Social Realism or relatively current European avade garde styles. Bravo was then and has remained stauchly apolitical. Dreamlike images of Campesinos are signatures for this artist. You will understand from this exhibition that, whatever the subject, Bravo’s unique vision is imprinted throughout his body of work (Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica).

Toshio Shibata is a Japanese photographer who explores the form of the landscape, as well as man's intervention into it, in his black and white images. Shibata's works are crisp and disorienting. He condenses and flattens out vast areas of space onto the two-dimensional picture surface. Rocks, trees, facades and walls become more than what is expected in these amazing compositions (Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica).

Sam Maloof, “Rocking Chair”,
walnut and rare woods.
A rare gallery exhibition of Sam Maloof’s woodwork is joined with a selective survey of Helen Lundeberg’s paintings, the first since her death last April at age 90. Beginning with examples from her early post-Surrealist breakout paintings from the early 1930’s, this show traces the development of her distinct color palette and geometrically reduced approach to landscape and interior subjects right up to her retirement from painting nearly a decade ago, a sixty year run.

Maloof is something of an iconic figure, know for furniture--the forms are too familiar to think of it as sculpture or ‘functional art’--that is deceptively simple perfection. Now in his eighties, Maloof is a model of consistently high and felt craftsmanship that has long set a standard by which his entire field is measured. What is interesting about this pairing is that both artists eschew showiness, preferring to convey a vision of elegant restraint by paying a good deal of rapt attention to the details (Tobey C. Moss Gallery, West Hollywood).

Deborah Paswaters, "Replay I," o/c, 48 x 24", 1999.

It’s pretty common to read a critic’s observation that an artist works in a gray area between the abstract and the figurative. Deborah Paswaters throws both together. Individual or small groups of both male and female figures are dropped right into geometrically segmented, expressionistically handled pictorial spaces. Much of the time fields of color are rich and intriguing, though at times they get nervous and cloying. The figures continually activate the abstract space, confounding its formal purity. This works well when the figure, which is never painted in sufficient detail to gain individual identity, simultaneously reads as an objective extension of the abstract space. In these cases the figure-ground relationship, and the corresponding psychological charge between them, is in provocative and insightful balance. When the figure reads as a descrete form standing out against a backdrop the work becomes awkward and, frankly, banal. The flashes of brilliance together with the classic nature of the aesthetic problem makes Paswaters’ work worth keeping an eye on (Marion Meyer Contemporary Art, Orange County).

Maria Marshall is an English artist who uses a young boy (her son) as the subject of her work. Marshall's film When I Grow Up I Want to be a Cooker shocked viewers when it was first shown. It depicts a two-year-old boy smoking a cigarette, inhaling deeply then blowing a smoke ring at the viewer. Other works are equally provocative. In Put Medication in His Pocket the same boy swallows an oyster. The work, shot in close-up, fluctuates between the seductive and the grotesque. Marshall photographs the boy in various costumes--a fur coat or an elaborate necklace. These are presented as individual images. In one photograph the boy hardly notices that he has a white rat on his head. Marshall's work is direct and straightforward in its approach, but her message is meant to undermine conventional commercial photography.

Patty Chang creates photographs, videos and installations that deal with taboo subject matter. Using cut-open melons to represent breasts or the red from peppermint candies to represent blood, Chang merges fantasy and reality. Her works end up being both funny and horrific. In this installation both photographs and videos are presented together, allowing viewers to see both the before and after of her creations.

In an installation entitled Remunerated Workers Santiago Sierra transforms the clean aesthetic of a gallery into a construction site, complete with concrete blocks and workers’ debris. Each of the two-ton blocks of concrete were brought into the gallery and moved about by day laborers every day for a week. The resulting work traces the history of the blocks’ movements--hitting walls and scraping floors--as well as the path of the workers by presenting their trash, empty bottles and other relics of their activities (Ace Contemporary Exhibitions, West Hollywood).

Mark Brest van Kempen, "Living from Land: A
Thirty-Day Performance", installation, 1999.

Keiko Nelson, "Birthwave" (detail), sand/
clay/canvas, 12 x 20 x 21', 1999.

The general propensity of humans to attempt to control nature keeps cropping up in Spaces of Nature, a show of installation works by nine artists guest curated by Peter Selz. Angelica Hofmann gathers and compacts earth, referencing building blocks, time, process, impermanence and colonization. A video puts the viewer in Mark Brest van Kempen’s shoes as he subsists for thirty days directly on pickings within a five square mile wilderness area. Archival remains, including fish bone, photos, maps, and the watch he wore when struck by lightning enhance this installation. Audio speakers deploying natural sounds seranade Tony Bellaver’s native California tree specimens, propagated for a woodland recovery project. Daniel McCormick’s work reflects eroded riparian environments. Laurie Polster deals with regeneration, and Alex B. Champion walks us down the garden path via a labyrinth he has constructed off site at the Huntington Library [sorry, the Corpse Plant’s gone by now. . .--Ed.] (Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena).

Enjoy the company of old friends, revel in the informality and beauty of their lives. Recognize familiar faces in carefree scenes and interiors by, among others, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt and Pierre Bonnard. Post-Impressionst Prints: Paris in the 1890’s offers over one hundred original prints by many of that era’s best loved artists. But beyond surface beauty are considerations that continue to be of interest, such as the effects of commercialization. The proliferation of lithographs and woodcuts in fashion magazines and advertisements at the end of the 19th century influenced both artists and audience. Albums such as Toulouse-Lautrec’s Elles were published in order to push the public beyond the staid comfort of single edition fine art etchings. International exhibitions such as the 1890 Ecole des Beaux-Arts display of over 700 Japanese prints profoundly influenced Post-Impressionist art. A selection of Japanese originals may be insightfully viewed alongside those of Pissarro, Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cassatt and others who took more than a passing glance at the Asians’ use of color, space and subject matter (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).