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April, 2001

Russell Crotty, "Milky Way, Northern
Hemisphere," ink on paper mounted on
lucite36-inch diameter sphere, 2000.
Collection of Ron and Ann Pizzuti, Columbus, Ohio

Linda Connor, "Fountain Head, Angkor,
Cambodia," photographic negative
on printing-out paper, 10 x 12", 2000.
The multi-institutional endeavor titled The Universe continues in Pasadena. Along with historical surveys of astromical art and artifacts and the major area museums---the Norton Simon, Pacific Asia, and Huntington Library--the two following exhibitions are noteworthy:

Russell Crotty’s The Universe from my Backyard is a collection of skyscapes drawn by the artist from his experiences observing the night from his observatory in Malibu. The collection is made up of different sections comprising many large sketch books spread out on viewing tables, selected and framed individual works and an array of pen sketches mounted on large plastic spheres and hanging in the main gallery like a kind of private planetarium. These are quirky and elaborate studies. Crotty's amateur standing in the astronomical arts does nothing to diminish his visual art (Art Center, Williamson Gallery, Pasadena).

In Contemporary Art and the Cosmos work by different generations of artists is placed side by side in an effort to plumb the numerous ways in which all things cosmological has come to fascinate. From Robert Rauschenberg are prints attesting to the heroic era of space travel. Ed Ruscha is represented with a literal transcription of the Latinate names of the moon's visible craters onto canvas. Kim Abeles' personal moon observatory transforms a sky tracking exercise into a visually robust sculptural installation. Linda Connor’s photographs, paired with a nice taste of Vija Celmin’s drawings of deep space, are the biggest surprise, bringing a convincing sense of wonder and mystery to formally rigorous work that packs a wallop. This survey just hints at the depth of this broad subject (The Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena).

In Peter Wegner’s exquisite group of three new paintings and a number of works on paper he uses paint chips as a point of departure. The work, however, is not simply an exploration of color. It relates much more to the intellectual rigor of the study of systems that preoccupied the conceptual artists of the 1960s and ‘70s. Wegner’s studies are articulated both as labor intensive drawings, in which he looks closely at the subtle relationships between similar colors, as well as carefully crafted large scale paintings. Language is an important element in Wegner’s work--the names of the colors he depicts are carefully chosen. There is nothing arbitrary here. The paintings appear as hard edged geometry, but they are in fact much more than that (Griffin Contemporary Exhibitions, Venice).

Peter Wegner, "72 Yellows," oil media
on MDF, 88 x 126 x 1 1/2", 2001.

Julia Fish, "Study for Entry [Fragment Five],"
gouache on paper, 16 x 19.5", 2000.
Julia Fish, a Chicago-based artist, exhibits drawings and painting from her Entry Series. This work is based on the tiled entryway of her home. Fish uses the tiles as a point of departure for a series of works that examine the relationship of architecture to painting; specifically the materiality of a given substance and its representation.
In the back room are two new sculptures by Waltercio Caldas. These works explore shape and space by juxtaposing painted rectangles on the wall with colored string hanging from the ceiling. These seemingly simple pieces change with every vantage point and become complex studies in perception (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Sharon Ryan returns to the orderly but complex structures of natural forms, finding worlds of engaging shapes within organic compositions. Titled Six by Sixteen, Ryan uses the sensuous and bold undulations of dark and light wood grains as a backdrop for her quiet linear calligraphic figures. She transforms elegantly finished and polished panels of birch into one large wall mural. Wood-grained finish, associated with furniture or architecture, becomes an essential artistic element. From the warm and powerful vertical shapes that define the inner structure of the tree, Ryan moves in and out of abstraction based on the tree's formation. She creates shapes following the course of the tree's design and then freely moves in other directions. Her work integrates organic forms with emotive artistic expressions (Irvine Fine Arts Center, Orange County).

Sharon Ryan, "Six by Sixteen," 6' x 16', 2000.

David Fokos’ large black and white photographs depict wide open expanses that explore where land and sky meet. These evocative and beautiful images are richly detailed, yet they are more about the relationship between form and light than the study of a specific place (Paul Kopeiken Gallery, West Hollywood).

David Fokos, "Three Poles, Chilmard, MA",
b&w photograph, 1997.

Award Winning Design, 1954-1998 provides extensive visual documentation that traces the projects selected over the past fifty years for Italy’s prestigious Golden Compass award. Bursting at the seams with an assortment of objects, logotypes and architectonic proposals, the exhibition is a marvel to roam through. From the early experimentation with plastics in the 50's to the modular furniture of the 60's to the streamlined logotypes of the 80's (as well as the classic forms of the Lambretta and Vespa scooters), there is much to look at that is memorable. The accompanying catalog fleshes out the drawings and details of these design gems (Italian Cultural Institute, West Los Angeles).

Gallery of Design, Steiner
Architetti Associati, 1997.

Jenny Okun, "L.A. County
Museum," photograph, 2001.

Brian Moss, "Untitled (L.A.)",
photograph, 2001.

Jenny Okun incorporates time into her photographic portraits of architectural imagery, capturing the essence of each of her subjects by moving color, form and light through space. The result is an orchestrated visual poetry with fresh and unique points of view that enhance the essential features of recognizable locations. Okun’s process, which evolved out of her experimentations with a square format Hasselblad, allows her to roll her negative through the camera, building up strips of images that play with overlapping rhythms and penetrations. Her New York Guggenheim curves off the paper. Pumped up inkjet color charges Calder, Mies and Blue, Chicago. The triptych format also alludes to a sense of “the scene, remembered,” in her work.
The sites captured by Brian Moss in his glide-by studies of the relationship of movement to chance could be the territory you glimpse out of the corner of your eye while barreling towards the destinations depicted by Jenny Okun. Moss distances himself from the city by shooting his photographs of Los Angeles from a moving vehicle. Along with low horizon lines askew with car lot banners and blurs are occasional glimpses of signage. In one arresting scene, the neon letters in a partially burnt out sign that was meant to identify a self-storage site now radiate “SELF RAGE” over a bleak street corner. Moss’s preoccupation with the void, which he calls “a banal sublime,” contributes to the unpretentious, canny quality of his imagery (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

In The Novel that Writes Itself/Honey, I Rearranged the Collection Allen Ruppersberg presents a series of commercially printed posters containing phrases and sentence fragments relating to the art world (The Novel that Writes Itself part) that also serve as the wallpaper against which are hung a series of framed cartoons (the Honey, I Rearranged the Collection part). The colorful cardboard posters (like those found on telephone poles announcing concerts) are hung floor to ceiling on the gallery walls. The cartoons have the effect of prodding you to pull together and then mentally rearrange various fragments from the posters. The overall effect is both mesmerizing and overwhelming. No one is going to read all the signs, but it is impossible not to be swallowed up by the humor and the cutting wit of the installation (Margo Leavin Gallery, West Hollywood).

As a 1999 recipient of a Durfee Foundation American/Chinese Adventure Capital Program Grant, Los Angeles photographer Joseph Wolek packed his bags and his cameras and went to China for seven months to photograph. Wolek focused on an aspect of China that is not usually depicted by tourists or photographers who set out to document modern-day China. Rather than depict major monuments and cities, Wolek instead traveled to more remote locations. The photographs presented in Loose Wanderings in a Rigid Terrain, which are rich in color and highly detailed, are of, as Wolek likes to call them, locations that are a bridge from one place to another. What unites them is the fact that each one contains a reproduction, usually as a framed poster or painting in the center of the composition. The works are about the relationship between an observed reality and the ideal representation (Jan Kesner Gallery, West Hollywood).