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Tom Wudl, "Desperate Mirror," a/c, 84 x 120", 1999.

Tom Wudl's latest paintings and drawings draw on the violin as their most visible source of inspiration. Three-dimensional violins and images of violins abound. Behind and between the form of the violin, however, there is another figure floating metaphorically. It is that of the virtuoso. All the while, in this exquisitely wrought group of drawings and paintings, Wudl is reflecting on the power and isolation of virtuosity. He populates the works in this cycle with visual references to virtuosos; here is something reminiscent of Velasquez, there is a direct citation from Jasper Johns; and it is all carried out with an imaging skill beyond that of a mere citation. Wudl inhabits virtuosity with the restlessness of a skeptic and fulfills its painterly promise with rigor and splendid beauty. The conditions to which he responds have no short and simple flash point, it is something to think about. This body of work, without reducing or summarizing the premise, merits viewing for the multiple pleasures and challenges it contains (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

Lisa Adams. "Little Boy with
a Big Headache", oil on
panel, 72 x 48", 1998.

Lisa Adams' fusion of globular abstraction and rough-hewn figuration has spawned some really interesting paintings. Teetering between a tongue and the cheek, and a rather serious investigation of how abstract forms slide restlessly from natural to cultural references, Adams doesn't allow her work to freeze into a single point of view. Not surprisingly, a clown’s head, with its face often averted from the viewer's gaze, is one of the prominent recurring figures in this new body of work. Shapes and forms familiar from her past output make appearances but turn into something else: Floating saucers become eyes, swollen ellipses become heads. The formal nucleus remains the same, while the derivation heads in a new, utterly comic direction. But that sleight-of-hand apart, Adams pursues with a passion that which has always been the mainstay of her art--working in the key of painting (Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica).

Carl Chiarenza, "Untitled 253," silver print, 1994.
Carl Chiarenza is a well known photographer whose abstract compositions are enigmatic studies in composition and design. The black and white photographs on view range in size, yet each image--whether small or mural scale--invites the viewer into the darkness that surrounds the shapes and allows them to wander through unknown shapes and textures that have been photographed against a deep black ground. His work can be compared to that of his mentor, Minor White, and to that of his colleague, Aaron Siskind. Siskind, White and Chiarenza belong to a school of photography where the photographers see things "for what else they were." Like the others, Chiarenza transforms everyday occurrences into wonderful abstractions in these seductive and beautiful works (Stephen Cohen Gallery, West Hollywood).

One cannot help but be impressed that Barbara Spring--a diminutive, 82-year old woman who has sculpted since she was 19 and uses a chainsaw to begin her wooden sculptures made from poles, planks, and trees--has created these twenty-nine fascinating figures and installations. Her wry sense of humor is evident in heart-rending vignettes of poignant and bittersweet moments of human existence. Through the process of carving, shredding, modeling, gluing and staining, Spring depicts every detail imaginable to breathe life into her wooden characters. Consequently, even if few real people are in the museum, the life-like qualities of Spring's figures, filling every nook and cranny, make the place seem crowded. Among her most impressive characters is Nobody, a thin, almost naked and bespectacled man, who just stepped out of a bath and seems frightened that he has been seen; Eddie Bauer, the consummate hiker, looking snappy in his camping outfit; and Name Withheld, a reticent young woman who glances at us with all her innocence (Laguna Art Museum, Orange County).

Barbara Spring, "Mother, Child, Baby,
Two Girls Playing Ball", wood, 1978-87.

Darrel Ellis, "Untitled (Group Making a Toast)," charcoal/ink on paper, 30 3/4 x 43", ca. 1984.

Darrel Ellis never met his father. Cops killed his dad a month before he was born. Ellis searched for the life he never knew, incorporating photographs of his father, other family members and friends into his experimental photo-collages, drawings and mixed media works. They poignantly reach through every shade of grey, peopled with glimpses of understanding, final ly leading to self portraits of this beautiful, charismatic black man who himself died in his thirties of AIDS.

Jane Dickson's unpeopled paintings of homes on carpet, astroturf, industrial felt and acetate could be regarded as a domesticated twist on "You are what you drive." Dickson is aware that painting on carpet adds another layer of dimension to her witty quest for meaning in Almost Home. Her deceivingly simple, often dramatically lit examinations of both East and West coast suburban abodes question ways in which we frame our identity. By the way, Dickson claims the quality of astroturf is much higher here than on the East coast. In New York it's only made to last through the summer (CSU Northridge, San Fernando Valley).

Nadar (a.k.a. Gaspard Félix Tournachon) and Andy Warhol were both artists who were interested in the community in which they lived. Nadar photographed Paris in the mid-1800s, while Warhol turned his gaze to New York in the 1960s-1980s. In particular Nadar/Warhol: Paris/New York focuses on Warhol's portraits of celebrities--stars readily recognizable to us --paired with Nadar's images of cultural icons who were analogously popular in his time. Both artists were also themselves considered superstars. Seeing such similarly grounded images that are separated by a century and an ocean provokes meditation on the issue of the context of fame as well as with respect to photography and the photographer (J. Paul Getty Museum, West Los Angeles).

castaneda/reiman, "drywall landscape,
safely orange horizon" (detail), drywall/
drywall mud/carpet, 60 x 180", 1999.
More than one artist has found a source of inspiration in the quirky interior spaces of this gallery. castaneda/reiman, a two-woman, single-name collaboration, takes the site specific gambit one step further insomuch as they literally make their art of building materials. Hence, the gallery is reconstructed within itself to their specs, which are very thankfully and wonderfully poetic. There are paint, drywall, drywall mud (joint compound) and tape configurations which surely mimic the gallery window, but also wistfully recall vintage Richard Diebenkorn. In the back room, a collapsed architectural plan of the gallery itself is translated into overlaid strata of drywall, concrete, glass brick and plywood, which sit atop a small pack of cast dogs. The telling concession to the realm of fantasy are these Alice in Wonderland animals, which are a part of the more severely calibrated installations. The heavy building materials lay upon them, reminding us of the strength (in even the strictest of art catechisms) held by the power of the imagination (Sandroni/Rey, Venice).

Alison Foshee's work when seen from afar seems to be an abstract composition of small circular shapes. Upon closer examination each shape is revealed to be a unique bubble containing a texture or fragment of text. Foshee lifts snippets of color and texture from magazines and newspapers and then combines these bubbles according to color and forms. The resulting works are compelling collages.

Calendar pages of the most ordinary variety are often the site of our daily noted appointments, annotations, doodles even ruminations. They are mostly invisible to us in their obvious utility and are usually disposed of with the same nonchalance with which they are handed out by the various benevolent social groups that commission them. Noah Erenberg turns that particular register of our non-activity into the source of his art. Collaged calendar pages are joined with bits torn from phone books and notebooks, and affixed with gobs of tape or set carefully into a paper mosaic. Astounding little discoveries dot the horizons in these works. Positively politically-incorrect sources are crafted into a individualistic unity. They give rise to a disconcerting sense of bad taste (of these oh-so anti-artistic arty-photos) as they posit the potential for any site to be the point of entry for a significant personal reverie (Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica).

Two local special events should make their way to your calendar this month.

On October 9 & 10, beginning at 11am each day, the Echo Park Arts Festival presents that neighborhood’s annual cultural street fair. The potpourri of activities features some art exhibits organized for the occasion, and also now sports the participation of neighborhood galleries Ojala and Fototeka. There is no admssion charge. Call the Festival office at (213) 250-4155 for further information.

Long sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, the annual Ojai Studio Artists Tour, in Ventura County, falls on the same weekend of the 9th and 10th, running from 10am to 5pm each day. About thirty Ojai area artists open their studios for this self-guided tour, which raises funds to support local public art organizations. Admission is $15 in advance/$20 on Tour weekend for the two days. You can write the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce at P.O. Box 1134, Ojai, CA 93024; call (805) 646-8126 or fax (805) 646-9762; or e-mail, for tickets and information.

Batik by Bernadette DiPietro is
the signature image for this year's
Ojai Studio Artists Tour.