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Wanda Miller Matthews, "A Room of One's Own," intaglio etching.

A clean yet intuitive selection of realistic detail characterizes Wanda Miller Matthews’ color intaglios. Her elegaic rooms and still lifes evoke the poetry of everyday experience. One of her mentors was Mauricio Lasansky, at the Iowa University Print Workshop, where the printing of multiple color plates with pinpoint accuracy was emphasized. The “wow” factor here, though, rather than press skills, is the powerful presence of the magic of nothing special (Mount St. Mary’s College, José Druidis-Biada Gallery, West Los Angeles).

Sylvia Glass, "Founding Ancestor," mixed media,
17 x 22" (open), 1999. Photo: Larry Lytle.

Delicately and sensitively folding and stitching found objects into her assemblage paintings, Sylvia Glass continues to explore man’s connection to the past. In this exhibit she adds drawings and includes tintypes from the late 19th- and early 20th-Centuries. Unsmiling, posed figures gaze blankly at the viewer, emitting a strong presence despite their comparatively small size to the total work. Not a memorial, this show is more a reminder of our connection to the past and a reflection on the wonder of the continuum of life (Jan Baum Gallery, West Hollywood).

Anthony Hernandez lived in Rome from 1998-1999 as a fellow at the American Academy. During his tenure there he wandered around the city, taking note of abandoned modern buildings rather than the ancient ruins. The square photographs he created are large scale color images. They depict dilapidated buildings whose structure is still intact. The images are elegant. Their color is brilliant and the forms sculptural. Rather than being about destruction, Hernandez finds beauty in the unexpected. His images have a formal quality and an attention to detail that draws you in, and the reflection on modern architectural discards in such an historic city makes them stick in your mind (Grant Selwyn Gallery, Beverly Hills).

Anthony Hernandez, "Rome #12," cibachrome print, 40 x 40", 1999.

Shift-Ctrl: Computers, Games and Art is an interactive exhibition that brings together a number of artists working with digital technologies creating websites, CD-ROMs and interactive games. The work is presented on individual computer screens as well as in the form of projections, allowing the viewer to both participate and to watch the action on the screen. As more and more artists explore new technologies in their work, exhibitions like this one will undoubtably become more popular. But until they do, this is an as yet rare opportunity to enter into a community of interactivity and to participate and discuss the state of creative research in this area (UC Irvine, Beal Center for Art and Technology, Orange County).

Shift-Cntrl, installation view.

Russell Crotty, installation view.
Numerous large globes hang from the ceiling in the center of the spacious gallery. Each globe supports a handmade drawing of the planets and the night sky. Russell Crotty has been observing the nocturnal skies for many years and recording his findings with pen and ink. Up until now the drawings have either been compiled into giant albums, or presented as single works on paper. These globes are a logical extension as well as a handsome presentation of his work. Working with pen on paper, allowing the strokes of the pen to create a textured surface, these are about the process of observation as much as they are about drawing. This show provides a space for reflection and speculation about art and the atmosphere (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).

The one thing you can say about the affinities here is that they are elective to the maximum. In fact, they are very hard to find. Not that the art work in Affinity is missing: from Kim Abeles wonderful low relief paean to the everyday, to Vito Lo Russo's souped up 1950's faux texture painting, to Lavialle Campbell's quirky externalization of her obsession with color and tactility, there is much that is excellent. But, hey, wasn't this the gallerist who used take the art world to task for even a slight shift in aesthetic coordination? So, while there may be no other affinity here than one man's take, there's still a lot of really good work to take in (Coagula Projects, Downtown).

Jeanine Breaker’s intimate, seductive paintings function as metaphors for man’s courage and resilience in the face of our vulnerability to nature. Storm clouds brew, forests burn, winds threaten, and a placid lake is ringed with fire. On close examination, the viewer discovers minute figures performing circus acts. In one, two figures balance on a high wire, one holding a flimsy umbrella before huge darkening clouds. In another a smoking canon shoots two tiny people through the air; and in still another a fire-eater breathes out flames in front of a burning forest. Well executed in pastels, these small paintings visually engage as they draw you into their stories (William Turner Gallery, Venice).

More than 70 Japanese prints and related items are on display in Reshaping History: Japanese Prints. The selection here dates from the 18th- to the 20th-Centuries, and has been selected to illustrate how different artists represented the same historic events or portrayed similar subjects. A fascinating and not the least bit didactic way of viewing prints, both for their primary aesthetic content and their secondary function of documenting their historical moment in time. This exhibition is really interesting for the afficionado and specialist alike. Ranging in subject matter from representations of kabuki actors to political rebellions, the prints are also aesthetically beautiful in their colored interplay of forms (Scripps College, Williamson Gallery, East L.A. County).

Catherine Courtenaye, "Forty-Four Stags,"
oil on panel, 45 x 60", 2000.

In Catherine Courtenaye's exhibition entitled Off-Hand Flourishes she re-presents fragments from 19th-Century Victorian penmanship manuals. Delicate filigree dances across her canvases. Each mark of the brush resembles the mark of a quill. The paintings’ layered images and text explore the "correct method of making lines." In these beautiful works no line stands alone. A curve, at first a gesture, later becomes a snake or a serpent hidden between the lines. The backgrounds are fields of color that in turn mesh with the calligraphic pattern of lines (Hunsaker/Schlesinger Gallery, Santa Monica).

The annual open house hosted by the Santa Monica Fine Art Studios is similar to open studio weekends that some of the downtown loft complexes host. It offers an informal exhibition of work by self-selected artists in residence, while allowing visitors to commune with the atelier environment. The sense of unpredictability and closeness to the working process, when it works, can make you feel that you are in on the ground floor of exciting new discoveries.

The Santa Monica Studios is unique on the West Side, a small and, we are told, threatened island as an increasing influx of young media and high tech companies have pushed most area artists out of coveted warehouse space. While other parts of L.A. sport thriving loft districts, the artists here must see themselves like soldiers at the Alamo.

The story lurking behind this year’s open studio is: Will they be there this time next year? Barring newfound affluence on the part of artist tenants, enlightened landlords willing to resist the short term prospect of bigger bucks, or a way for the city of Santa Monica to preserve some corner of the existing warehouse market for an endangered species (expanding current use of old airplane hangars at Santa Monica Airport for instance), the ominous answer could be: No.

The fifteenth annual event featuring 35 resident artists is on Saturday, December 9th, 6-9pm, and Sunday the 10th, 2-5pm. No charge. Call (310) 453-3632 or e-mail to tanjar220 for further information.

Yossi Govrin, "The Nighwatch
Series," mixed media, 10 x 15'.

Diana Kunce, "Untitled," mixed media, 13 x 13'.