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March, 2002

Stone, mud, and driftwood are the natural elements that typically compose Richard Long’s works. He creates installations using materials he collects on his walks (no, these are not little stolls down the block), as well as materials inspired by the activity of walking. In the 1980’s Long often represented his walks through a single photograph and a few carefully chosen words. Here his large scale installation incorporates wall paintings made of mud and large floor sculptures composed of stones. This is stunning: the works are both meditative and physical. In addition to the wall and floor pieces Long also presents a number of smaller works made of driftwood. These compelling sculptures are reminiscent of tribal totems, linking Long’s endeavor back to art’s original impulses well as the natural landscape (Griffin Contemporary Art, Venice).

Richard Long, installation view of "Umpqua River Stones"
[foreground], and "I Ching Hexagram (Earth)" [back].

Marion Lane, “The Butterfly Effect,”
acrylic on panel, 24 x 24”, 2001.
Painter Marion Lane has dazzled with built-up surfaces and a wild array of colors and paint-application techniques. From psychedelic kitsch to lush synthetic abstract cheesecake, her paintings have something for everyone--a rarity in abstraction. What is surprising in the current show is its reserved maturity. Using the large number of techniques for the mixture and application of paint that she has acquired in her years of experimenting/exhibiting, Lane now draws out painted forms with painting experiments serving as areas of concern rather than entire subjects. The results are less orgiastic but more refined than in previous work. This group of paintings are uniform in size and background color, and each features organic shapes comprised of signature candy-color blobbed and spackled paint mixtures. They are a passionate monogamy of painterly discipline that pleases with lessons learned from a recent past of furious and beautiful indiscretions (Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica).

In Larger Than Life, photographer Bobbi Bennett is a superhero who wrestles psychological demons. These demons are part of the Monster self-portraits, with titles such as guilt, fear, stagnation and lust. The images are richly colored abstractions in which the viewer must work to discern faces from the background, if, indeed they are even there. It is up to the viewer to decide if these demons exist. Less ambiguous is Wonder Woman, a poster-sized self-portrait in which the protagonist sports a star-patterned bikini and confronts the camera with a sly smile. The Cat Woman series is the most impressive, in which the masked face of the cat woman floats in a sea of pink hues. Larger than Life prompts us to question the dreamlike quality of our own self-identities (Fototeka, Echo Park).

Bobbi Bennett, "Raquel,"
type C print, 30 x 40", 2000.

Dexter Dalwood, "Kurt Cobain's Greenhouse," o/c, 2000.
Part contemporary history painter, part seller of well executed media hype, English painter Dexter Dalwood constructs engaging fictional analogues for celebrity events (Ted Kennedy and the famous car off the bridge), and overwrought cultural paragons (our favorite nihilist Frederik Nietzsche). He has received his share of critical note for this fare here and in the UK, and his images reference everything (often at the same time) from the corrupt irony of politics to the corrupt irony of the art market. He has a penchant for scenes emblazoned in our consciousness as scandal, and he mixes Pop's fascination for vernacular culture with a thorough mastery of art history. In the off-handed way he paints and reconstructs certain collective memories, Dalwood both capitalizes on clichés, and smartly comments on the way we construct history--mostly from high relief caricatures promulgated by mass media. White Bronco is a portrait of O.J. Simpson's infamous SUV. Reflected in its rearview mirror and painted with great wit is the Hollywood sign--a clever art homage to Ed Ruscha, and a reminder of the very place where you pull the curtain back to find the wizard is just a schmoe with a good PR firm (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).

Viggo Mortensen is a well known Hollywood personality, but is also an accomplished artist. Sign Language is his second solo exhibition here. On view are numerous paintings and photographs that range in subject from landscape to portrait to abstractions. In his photographs Mortensen focuses on the details--a gesture, a moment. In his paintings soft muted colors and lines fuse creating a textured surface that draws the viewer in. The quietness of Mortensen’s work stands in contrast to the noise of Alan Rath’s Stereos, which are about art and technology. He combines sophisticated computer programming with audio visual components to create innovative and suprisingly decorative works. Stereo is comprised of a series of eight hand made stereo boom box sculptures (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Viggo Mortensen, "Self-Portrait, Winter,"
archival pigment print, ed. of 25, 2002.

Valerie Bechtol, mixed media installation
from "In the Presence of Spirit", 2002.

Valerie Bechtol’s In the Presence of Spirit is a compelling homage borne out of a need to express individual and collective grief over the 9/11 tragedy. Bechtol’s works have long dealt with transformation through ritual. Her belief in the power of feminine energy to nurture and heal is expressed in a sculpture consisting of two female torsos that represent the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The ritual act of collecting and collaging the torsos with 2,300 portraits and stories of grief helped with her own mourning process. Gathered from stories and photographs printed in the daily newspaper, collaged layers bleed through a white background in various states of clarity. The torsos are split down the middle to expose inner lights, evoking how the spirits of the deceased shines through to the living. They are set upon a wood base filled with more stories, which has been burned to represent Ground Zero. Behind the torsos Bechtol has created a quilt of 182 more photos and stories. Also on view is Heroes, a tribute to the firemen who died. It consists of a fireman’s hat, a ladder and a patchwork of their stories. A sculpture of Phoenix, rising from the ashes, represents the indomitabilty of the human spirit (Studio 343, San Pedro).

Chris Wilder‘s series of paintings, Project Blue, explore the populist world of celebrated Malibu surfer Mickey Dora, helping to jettison any preconceptions of institutionalized (or socio econonomic) elitism. Dora spent much of his life as a recluse living in self imposed exile haunted by the loss of the idyllic world of his youth. Wilder, himself a rabid surfer and sometime recluse, is obviously moved by Dora, seeing him as mentor, inspiration and even hero. Cheesy and iconic with a welcome veneer of abstraction, the spaciously magnified dot effect paintings are modeled on images from surf magazines of bygone eras. Heavy distortion transforms them from the bombastic realm of action pic documentation to artistic vision. Their color and form imbues them with pathos and emotion (Lord Mori Gallery, Downtown).

Chris Wilder, "The Ethics of the Perfect Moment"
(detail), oil/enamel on canvas, 72 x 60", 2002.

Lorraine Lubner, "Green Variants", 5 panel painting, 2000.

Martin Lubner, "Family I: Couch", painting, 1999.

The modernist pursuits of Lorraine Lubner and Martin Lubner, both artists, but not collaborators, have produced painting of very different aesthetic bearings. Add to this, that the two artists have also been married for quite some time and you have the premise of pARTners. Martin's rough figurative work and Lorraine's muscular abstractions actually share some of the same subterranean verve, all of which is revealed in the bracingly audacious curatorial choice of hanging the work(s) as one (CSU Northridge, Valley).

Chris Ofili, "Afromantics," acrylic/oil/
glitter/polyester resin/map pins/elephant
dung on linen, with two elephant
dung supports, 2000-2002.
Cave Painting brings together the work of three painters who have little to do with each other aesthetically, simply that they are friends. Chris Ofili and Peter Doig reside in London, Laura Owens lives in Los Angeles. All three make large scale semi-representational paintings. Ofili in addition to paint uses elephant dung in his works, which made him notorious as the painter who offended the Mayor and who almost caused the closing of the Sensation show at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. His collage-like works reference comic books and hip hop culture. Doig’s works are more atmospheric and impressionistic. He paints from memory as well as from personal photographs, making works that draw from horror films. Owens’ recent paintings are playful landscapes in which birds and animals frolic. She incorporates many styles in her enigmatic works (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).

New York artist Jeanne Silverthorne has her way with space, effectively tying together horizontal and vertical planes with naked pipes, joints, valves and snaking electrical cords cast in black rubber. Crème toned vestiges of segments of human organisms, enlarged to overflow their ornate

Jeanne Silverthorne, "Fear Machine," installation view,
rubber/plastic/acrylic, dimensions variable, 2002.
black rubber frames, inhabit the artist’s stripped down, studio-like settings. Glistening drips occasionally fall from dull surfaces, suggesting body fluids or condensation, álà Kienholz. But Silverthorne’s formality, choice of materials and emotional tenor link her more closely to Eva Hesse. Revealing titles like Dry Mouth, Thin Skinned, Edgy, and Tear Machine intensify the aching repulsion buried within Silverthorne’s captivating work (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).

Straight to Hell is an amusing show that features the work of six male artists, all dealing with themes of Heaven and Hell. Included are the witty drawings of Marcel Dzama, the poignant and deadpan satirical works of Jeffrey Vallance, the surreal religious experience of The Reverend Ethan Acres, as well as new drawings by Jason Jagel, Neil Faber, and a single painting by Jason Phillips. Although most are individually familiar to followers of this gallery, when presented in this new context we discover fresh content overlooked on previous viewings (Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica).

Neil Farber, "The Devil's Influence,"
colored ink on paper, 20 x 30", 2001.

Going back nearly a half-century, the advertising tableaus of Howard Zieff will still provoke laughter and recognition. Given their compositional strengths and wit, they manage to cross the line between advertising and art. Zieff’s abundant comic gifts are apparent in these scenarios of people so absorbed in the New York Daily News that they fall victim to peculiar accidents with a giant dust pan or the kitchen toaster (G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, West Hollywood).

Howard Zieff, "Breakfast, N.Y. Daily
News Ad Campaign," photograph, 1956.

Willem de Kooning, "Still Life," pastel and
pencil on paper, 13 3/8 x 16 1/4", 1945.
A gathering of many dozen of Willem de Kooning's now so well known Women provide the pleasure of watching his progression from depicting a quite recognizable figure to relying on skeins of frothy pigment to evoke the energy of the feminine as it seemed to him. This works-on-paper exhibition, reflecting curator Paul Schimmel's career-long commitment to this moment in art history, shows de Kooning to have been a serious master of the expressive mark and the gnashed gesture. The show is given the somewhat PC title Tracing the Figure, but it is really an overview of the artist's obsessive interest in images of women from 1938--when it all started, fresh and intense--to 1955, when, with the help of the Rockefellers and Chase Bank, it had reduced itself into formula. These women, literally carved as they are out of the paper in dense, often aggressive lines, do capture something that is essentially female. The gender's undeniable, Feminism-be-damned power, magic, fecundity, resiliance and, yes, grace. At the same time these images present a view of women as dangerous and seductive, whore and virgin, some alien race, always a mystery to the ever gazing male. Such a take is as flat and useless as the old Father Knows Best TV show. However, in the way in which de Kooning can place himself within this complex formal and sociological rhetoric with each telling line and erasure, in the ultimate tension we see over and over again between his freedom and his restraint of decision, it is clear from this work that it beats the opposing odds of hype and obsolescence (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Downtown).

I-5: Four Decades of Contemporary Art is structured around the gift Frederick R. Weisman presented the Museum of thirty-three works of art in 1990. This expansive show illuminates significant aspects of contemporary art in California from the 1960s to the present. The galleries are subdivided into sections and combine two curatorial approaches: displays of selected material from the collection, and thematic displays of artworks based on an idea, historical period, or style. Section titles run from Early Conceptual Art in San Diego to In Two Dimensions: Minimal and Decorative Styles. In a rambling and interesting layout, among the works on display are some real gems. In the section of Film and Video by Independent California Artists, 1965-2000, classic works by Kenneth Anger, John Baldessari, and Eleanor Antin are placed in proximity to works by Jeanne C. Finley and Janice Tanaka to a very interesting effect (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).

Masami Teraoka, "L.A. Sushi Series--
Tai and Red Sky," watercolor, 1982.