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Surf Trip is an exciting and humorous exhibition that looks hard and deep at surf culture in California. Presented are actual surf boards alongside paintings and photographs that reflect the many aspects of this culture. Kevin Ancell’s gathering of manikins hula dance, video tapes of waves roar, and the walls come alive with splatters and graffiti. Numerous artists are represented in this free for all, all as committed to surfing as they are to art (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Kevin Ancell, "Surf Girls," mannikins.

In The Art of Giving: Recent Acquisitions of the Norton Simon Museum the arrangement of acquisitions within the gallery suggests ways in which most of these new works seem destined to play supporting roles, reinforcing areas of strength in the existing collection. Most prominently displayed is Paysage, a strong angular woodcut by Maurice de Vlaminck that will compliment a rich collection of Expressionist works inherited by the museum from the Galka Scheyer collection. Third- through fifteenth-century sculptures and architectural fragments from countries including India, Thailand and Nepal will round out the museums newly restored, beautifully installed collection of Asian art. Flowers in a Vase, a watercolor by Emil Nolde, reveals a lyrical side of this artist whose earlier work, notably The Sea 1, is much more darkly dramatic. Autumn Still Life, a haunting Post Surrealist oil on plywood by Helen Lundeberg, ups the ratio of holdings by women artists, including Vigee-Lebrum, Liubov Popova and June Wayne, at the Museum and suggests a new direction for growth (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).

Emil Nolde, "Flowers in a
Vase," watercolor, c. 1930.

John Gutmann, "The Cry," photograph, 1939.

John Gutmann: Culture Shock is a compelling exhibition of over 100 black and white photographs that document one man’s vision of the United States as it evolved from the 1930’s to the 1980’s. Gutmann was born in Germany and emigrated to the USA in the 1930’s. His photographic style was to focus on the details: graffitti, details of cars, as well as street scenes and individuals. Gutmann’s photographs, like many of his contemporaries--Helen Leavitt, Walker Evans--describe what the spirit of life was like in the U.S. during the war years and after, as the media began to have an influence on popular culture (Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

Maynard Dixon, "The Jinks Room" (detail), o/c, 1912-1914.

A large, newly restored group of Maynard Dixon murals are the literal and metaphorical centerpiece of the three exhibitions comprising USC Collects California. They are flanked, on one side by, Representing California, a selection of landscape and cityscape work ranging from the plein air style of California Impressionists, through the photographs of the 1950's and 60's, to the work of contemporary artists like F. Scott Hess and Guy Williams. On the other side, there is Made in California, works by living California artists ranging from the abstract painting of Trevor Norris to the digital photography of Jenny Okun. Dixon's painted panels are a surprise. Depicting fanciful parades of friars, elves and faeries, they function like a missing link in the archeology of California art collecting. The colors and narrative sequence of the images are reminiscent of the murals visible at the Downtown Library. His use of a muted pastel palette and the imagination (which have been discarded ever since California Pop art was unceremoniously dumped alongside the labels of shipping crates) places the work outside of our expectations. Weird and enticing, the 'Jinks Room' murals are a reminder of just how much visual art gets displaced and then restored in time (USC, Fisher Gallery, Downtown).

David Finn, “Hiram Powers,
‘The Greek Slave,’ 1845-47”, photograph.

The idea of photographing historically significant sculpture that represents the nude figure seems prosaic yet irresistible. Seen through the lens of David Finn’s camera we get to revisit many of the key interpretations of the human form, but approached with an eye for telling detail. Finn also convinces that, although frozen in stone or metal, these are models who have been made to pose according to the photographer’s instructions (Tasende Gallery, West Hollywood).

Yek, installation view,
air brush on panel, 2000.

Carolie Dixon, "Untitled," mixed media on
canvas mounted on board, 36 x 36", 1999.

Four concurrent exhibitions present the psychedelic paintings by Yek, a Las Vegas artist whose abstractions emanate a spiritual glow; Tam van Tran’s map-like abstractions, in which textures and lines appear to be urban cityscapes; David McDonald’s floor sculptures made out of cement and found objects; and Caroline Dixon’s freeway abstractions. Here the imagery of four artists working in different media and styles prove capable of stimulating in viewers a host of fresh connections and associations (Irvine Fine Arts Center, Orange County).