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Brian Ruppel, "Secular Shrine" (detail),
enamel on panel, 24 x 24", 1999.

Brian Ruppel's vibrant paintings fill the entry wall in this exhibition. Each painting is made of colored stripes that resemble video bars--the television test pattern. On top of each of these colored backgrounds Ruppel has painted an image or a word. The juxtaposition of the images and text creates a layering effect, requiring you to read across the many paintings. When assembled in a large grid-like configuration each works loses its individuality and becomes part of the whole. A narrative can then be constructed as you read and look across the works, making their own connections and meanings (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica).

Kerry James Marshall explores themes that range from racial stereotyping to who is a role model or hero and whyin Mementos. Like all successful memento mori, Marshall's personal reflections on his experiences as a young black male have universal resonance. They touch raw nerves and evoke poignant memories that are permanently etched in history. The images of John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, along with the fiery slogans that were shouted from Georgia to the four corners of our country are replicated in paintings, prints, signage and a room-sized installation.
The three wall-sized paintings dominate the exhibit. Rendered on unstretched canvas, each features a life-sized black woman in a comfortable parlor full of middle-class furnishings. Encrusted in silver glitter frames, each of the scenes is realistic-- except that the woman has wings (a tribute to the saintly role played by the black matriarch) and the spirits of black artists, poets, musicians and political role models hover over her head.
Centered in the middle of the gallery is a large mausoleum-like structure with numerous peep holes. Viewers must look through the holes to see the video projected inside. The sculptures, appear to be larger rubber stamps, each containing a specific catch phrase from the 1960's relating to black power. The stamps and the prints made from them align the gallery walls, each printed in a color of the African National Flag.
Each element reinforces the others to assert the power of Marshall's vision and history’s verdict (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).

With his new dual series of paintings, Blacksmith/Bird of Paradise, Jeff Gambill pays tribute to the memory of members of his family in a personalized version of sunshine and noire. Both series are homage's to Gambill's grandmother and grandfather--the grandmother represented as an elegantly painted bird of paradise and the grandfather as the more somber blacksmith. The armchair psychologists among us can immerse themselves in the construction of meanings suggested by contrasts between the dense, dark, layers of imagery used to depict the solitude of the metal shop versus the naturally alluring representations of a flower whose very name suggests his grandmother's opulent exuberance. Although the sparkle of plexiglass through the masterfully realized florals can easily dazzle the eye, viewers who take the time to allow the retina to open up to embrace the darker images will be rewarded for their persistence (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Moncia).

Jeff Gamill. "Bird of Paradise,"
oil on plexiglas, 48 x 48", 1999.

Jim Isermann has filled the gallery space--floor to ceiling--with a pattern that is applied directly to the walls. Isermann is interested in patterns and how what seems to be a simple combination of shapes and color can become an intricate and complex artwork. For this installation he fabricated shapes out of large sections of vinyl decal and created an undulating work of red, purple, orange and blue curves and rectangles that dance before viewers’ eyes (Richard Telles Gallery, West Hollywood).

Richard Sedivy's new works explore nautical themes. Each of the paintings juxtaposes a painted two-dimensional version of a ship with fragments of its sculpted form. In each of the works on view the two versions of the ships are centered in the composition and surrounded by a two-colored background--alluding to the relationship between land and sea. These works draw viewers in. They are seductively painted yet at the same time almost purposely funky in their construction. Upon each view of the work there seems to be more and more to see (Hunsaker/Schlesinger Gallery, Santa Monica).

Donald Moffett, a New York artist who has been exhibiting his work for over ten years, has undergone many transformations. In this incarnation, Moffett is reborn as a painter. A rug made up of gray and green and white stripes almost fills the gallery floor. One must walk on the rug to view the paintings. Each painting appears to be a section of rug. These highly textured works simulate different kinds of carpet, some more shaggy than others. Each strand of carpet is made entirely of paint. These tromp l'oeil works are both fascinating and impressive. Yet when thinking of Moffett’s previous works, there must be more than meets the eyes--are these simply studies in abstraction? (Marc Foxx Gallery, West Hollywood)

Young and Dumb is a group exhibition that presents work by seven young Los Angeles artists, all recent graduates. The work, all well crafted and in a variety of media, is a vibrant example that young work is not necessarily dumb, or naive. The artists in this exhibition prove that being young is the equivalent of being fresh, adventurous and open to new ideas. The artists: Liz Craft, Kim Fischer, Mark Grotjahn, Pentti Monkkonen, Amy Sarkisian, Hung Tran and Eric Wesley (Acme, West Hollywood).

"We are more than ever exposed to images of anger, violence, hatred, profanity, death and destruction," writes gallery director Jeannine McWorter, explaining Erotic: Redeeming the Definition. With that state of mind, she sent out an open invitation for artists to submit examples of erotic art to usher in the year 2000. "Let's...not concentrate on the worries of 'sexuality'," she continued, "but on the wonders of 'sensuality'...and the ecstasy of the human all its variations." Juried by three arts professionals, the show, though uneven, does contain its share of treasures. Two of them are cast-bronze miniature sculptures by Karin Swildens whose reductive torso forms are reminiscent of Brancusi. Dramatic photography of nudes in various captivating poses is produced by Bob Jakobsen and Wade Hammon/Mark Solter; watercolors that reference Tantric sexual positions is created by Kris Hostikka; a crisp, spontaneous charcoal drawing of two coupled nudes is the work of Chris Huicochea; and Can-Do, Eva Kolosvary-Stupler's whimsical assemblage sculpture, will bring a smile to the face of any cynic (Artscape, Long Beach).

People are always surprised when they come face to face with contemporary Latin American art. Full of preconceptions and stereotypes of what to expect, they are audibly delighted with the high-quality sophistication that results when world-wide art trends are married to the sensibilities of each "New World" culture. Take Uriarte Talavera for example--the most important ceramic studio in Mexico. Originating in 1868 in the city of Puebla, Uriarte continues to create original, hand thrown, hand-painted and glazed ceramics in traditional, dark blue, neo-Hispanic designs. Four years ago, the studio began to invite critically acclaimed contemporary Mexican artists to come and produce plates, pottery, and sculpture in the signature styles for which they are known--while using Talavera techniques. On view are 35 outstanding examples of "Nueva Talavera" ceramics by such well-known artists as Jose Luis Cuevas, Raul Anguiano, Manuel Felguerex, Maris Bustamante, Sergio Hernandez, and L.A. artist Michael J. Walker. Complementing the contemporary work are eight historic traditional pieces, making this exhibit an absolute "must-see" (Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach).

Gogy Farias, "Mariposa (Butterfly)",
ceramic sculpture, 20 x 23", 1998.
Collection of Uriarte Mexico.