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February, 2002

Although the title, The Frame in America. 1860-1960, sounds didactic and unexciting, the variety of types of frames in this exhibition and the written and photographic exploration of the relationship that they had to the style of art being created along with them is quite rewarding. The different frame models, stripped of their pictorial content, begin to stand out as succinct creations on their own as one passes by in the inevitable contrast and comparison. Noteworthy are a frame comprised of intricately bound nautical knot and the elongated, gilded shapes from American Impressionism (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).

(outside) Folk Art Frame in the Eastlake Style
Pine, bronze paint, and oil paint, c. 1880. William Hodges Collection
(middle) Cut Leather Frame
Leather and pine black asphaltum varnish, c. 1870. Adair Collection
(inside) Fencing Motif Character Frame
Basswood, composition, aluminum powder paint, and oil paint, c. 1901

Eric Rosciam, "Backwash Flowers,"
plastic soda bottles/soda/papertowels, 2001.

Roman de Salvo, "Settlement,"
wood burning on wood, 2001.

Adjective Noun Verb, curated by Carlee Fernandez, is a compelling exhibition with a sense of humor. The works in the show by Eric Rosciam, Roman De Salvo, and Tom Skelly do not take themselves too seriously. For example, why not make a tower out of the center of oreo cookies, or cut apart the red dots that usually signify a sale at galleries and make them into a work of art? The works are pristinely installed and a pleasure to look at. You’ll also think about many of them way after the actual viewing (Acuna-Hansen Gallery, Downtown).

Jacquelyn Tough, "Dy-Dee Acid Bath," watercolor
/pencil/faux gold leaf on paper, 30 x 15", 2001.
In the 1980s, Richard Heller was partners with Bennett Roberts running the Richard Bennett Gallery. Two of this team's most noteworthy discoveries were Kim Dingle and Raymond Pettibon, Dingle discovered by the duo exhibiting at Downtown L.A.'s Double Rocking G Gallery, and Pettibon spotted exhibiting his flyers for punk rock club gigs at Hollywood's beerstained Zero One Gallery. Heller, now solo for a decade, trots out Jacquelyn Tough, an artist who combines the formal technique of Pettibon (illustrative watercolor drawings of distinct figures, usually people, often accompanied by text) and the self-righteous, fearlessly feminine adventure of Dingle's most notorious work. Ms Tough comes with her own Generation-X touches: a flourescent palette, a running gag on prozac, and a first name basis with four-letter words. In the category of poignantly naive pop sketch as finished product, Ms Tough stands out in a field where her only true competition would be Canadian Marcel Dzama, who, not surprisingly, was also introduced by Mr. Heller (Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica).

Martin Mull’s narrative paintings are densely layered works, although they range in size and complexity. Mull weaves a story within the works, such as in the diptych We Had Such Hopes II, where we abstractly follow the wanderings of a boy through a landscape populated by deer and other more domestic animals. Mull has a unique style, one that fluctuates between finely detailed rendering and loose dripping paint. His cartoon-like imagery resonates on multiple levels, and although the narratives within the works are often ambiguous the gesture of putting paint on the canvas is not (Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica).

Martin Mull, "Nocturne,"
oil on linen, 79 x 48 1/2", 2001.

Steve Criqui, Untitled “J’s 2,” solvent based ink/UV
varnish/oil on canvas over panel, 96 x 198", 2001
Noirish Days/Unrestful Nights is the name of Steve Criqui’s latest exhibition of mixed media paintings. These large digital works combine photography, painting and digital manipulation. Criqui begins with photographs that are symbolic of Los Angeles’ vernacular architecture--for example the centerpiece in the show is an image of Johnnies Coffee Shop at Fairfax Ave. and Wilshire Blvd. It is photographed from multiple angles and then reassembled on the computer. The color is enhanced, perspectives skewed, and signs obliterated. Criqui manages to weave these elements together, creating more than the eye or camera could see without the large size and grainy resolution of these works. Criqui extends his investigation of the relationship of L.A. architecture to the history of modernist forms and colors (Lemon Sky Projects, West Hollywood).

Check your closet for clothes that sport labels on the outside, exposed to public view. Think what it would be like if you wore your private desires like tags, marking every item of standard apparel with intimate messages of desire. Iké Udé replaces the labels on business shirts and high-heeled shoes with personal ads, narrating everyday attire with intimate disclosures in Beyond Decorum. He manages to upset the stereotypes and myths that fashion, films and mass media construct. Udé questions single dimensional categories. He examines the surface qualities of various skin tones in photos of nudes adorned with decorative patterns, performs disparate roles on fabricated magazine covers and film ads, and infuses his photography with a charge that pushes marginalized diversity center stage (UCR/California Museum of Photography, Riverside).

Iké Udé, “Untitled (#2,left side of diptych),”
type-C print mounted on aluminum, 1999.

Part of that generation of sculptors directly influenced by earthworks and process art, Woods Davy has for a long time been wrestling sculpture and organic composition from forms closely linked to nature: wood, stone, etc. His recent work--most notably Rio Luna, a seven-foot plus totemic obelisk precariously stacking balletic hunks of found granite--indicates that Davy has happily not lost his touch (Skidmore Gallery, Malibu).

Woods Davy, "Rio Luna,"
stone, 75 x 33 x 20", 2001

The chronological span of Suki Berg's paintings reveals the 84-year-old artist's ceaseless rapture with making art. Berg is drawn to the figure and the psychological possibilities of human interaction; in particular, the feelings human beings have for each other --attraction, desire, and tension. Her older work is much larger and more expressive. Figures often have a softer hidden quality that asks the viewer to search not only for its meaning, but for the clandestine faces or bodies. In her current work, due to age and illness, Berg creates in smaller proportions, ironically arriving at some of her more intriguing results. Colors are brighter, there is much more gestural control and formal definition. Included are Berg's print series of self-portraits in which she sports a bird, goat, or leopard mask--an artistic means to redefine herself (OCCCA, Orange County).

Suki Berg, “Soaring with Angels,” etching/
collage on monotype, 25 x 17 1/2”, 2000.

Peter Alexander, “Universal,”
lithograph, edition of 90, 20 x 20”, 1990.
Capitalism is en vogue in Colorblind, a startling show of black and white art in a gallery notorious for color-drenched shows by everyone from hyper-realist Dan Douke to blue-chippers Jeff Koons & Damien Hirst. As the market will have it, there is something for everyone here: If unique screenprints of car crashes from Warhol's disaster series are a little too visceral, a large Richard Serra lithograph awaits your contemplation. Traditionalists will be soothed by both a Picasso etching and a warm Peter Alexander landscape. Hipsters should be jolted by an original marker drawing on paper by Keith Haring and a classic Ed Ruscha map drawing of Los Angeles streets. The only people who might not like Colorblind are black & white Marxists, as the gallery had no problem pleasing eager collectors by removing work in the exhibition once it had sold. There was a photo at the front desk of the $38,000 Dubuffet ink drawing that went the day the show opened to bear witness to market forces at their most aesthetically efficient (Ikon Limited, Santa Monica).

Toys and children deleriously populate Mark Ryden’s busy paintings. The hodgepodge is constantly intriguing by virtue of the shifting valences of scale, symbolic suggestiveness, and painterly authority. Charm slides into creepiness and back again, repeatedly confounding your expectations as you take in a given work. One is left with the impression that Ryden’s intent is to unlock the potential of this menagerie as a vista of momentary ideas and reactions. So much the better that he is able to register them with such sustained precision (CSU Grand Central Art Center, Orange County).