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April, 2002

A choice selection of Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract gouaches and oil paintings gain by virtue of the context of the setting, which provides a dramatic prelude to this small exhibit. During the 1950s, Diebenkorn favored an abstract style of rendering his Berkeley, California topography. This exhibit casts a wider net, hinting at abstracted still lifes along with his more well known approach to privileging the color of landscape over its form. Viewing works by as prominent a Californian artist as has ever been produced within an institutional setting that places them nearby classical and early modern masters makes a local viewer feel far less alienated from the classical art. When the colors of our part of the world are bounding energetically off the walls down the hall from Old Master Flemish seascapes and Impressionist landscapes, we feel more a part of the world--which in these unilateral days may be quite a good thing (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).

Richard Diebenkorn, "Berkeley
#24,"o/c, 68 3/4 x 57", 1954.

Lisa Adams, "An
Announcement," oil on
panel with wood and
candle, 83 x 32", 2001.
Painter Lisa Adams deals with duality as a theme in her current exhibit, Imperfection. The show’s title subtly acknowledges the impossibility of real or absolute union, illustrating the point with paintings of imperfect pairs--sweaters, nipples, Japanese schoolgirls. Adams applies paint in a rather unique manner: a feminized art brut with gleanings of thrift store art used to heighten the psychological dissonance of her varied subjects. Everywhere in the work the partnership theme asserts itself, imperfect, but never quaint or self-conscious; the images and theme hover together. Things illustrated as twinned are weirdly always separate. It is an eerie show, bursting with many ideas, and not confined formally to painting--there are digital output prints, installations, sculpture, a charming video (collaborating with Jill Giegerich, Adams has been exhibiting video and new media digital artworks around town billed as “the Apocalypse Twins”), and of course, many many paintings. The show is triumphantly sad, dizzying in places in its bold delivery of imperfect art. Enough whimsy comes with this work that an hilarious, terrifying tension is created that eventually winds-up this show before letting its roar loose (Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica).

Astrid Preston’s lively landscape paintings are detailed and colorful works that look closely at specific aspects of the natural world. Trees, flowers and grass form fields in these graceful canvases. They hover between the abstract and the representational, becoming more than the eye could ever see. In many of her recent works Preston focuses on close up views--details of Autumn forests--that form dense, allover compositions. The colors and tight brush strokes merge on the surface, seducing your eye to alternatively glide above the patterns or be sucked into the vortex. Most of the smaller works at the front of the gallery are attractive enough, but the group of large works in the rear space are knockouts (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica)

Astrid Preston, "Maple
Red," o/c, 84 x 72", 2002.

David Graham’s color photographs in Only in America depict roadside attractions, unusual signage and odd juxtapositions that describe the vernacular landscape of America. The images are humorous and often suprising. Graham has been traveling across the United States for many years searching for the surreal and eccentric. Included in the exhibition are photographs of people, places, statues, and animals. Shot both during the day as well as at night, Graham does whatever it takes to get the picture that conveys that which makes America special (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

David Graham, from "Only in
America," color photograph.

Current work by Fernando Rodriguez displays a magical vision of a complex sociopolitical idea without any of the usual posturing or hectoring tone of much socially conscious art. And it’s humorous. Without diluting the message, this Cuban artist, not old enough to have experienced the corrupt pre-Castro Cuba, speaks and sees through the memories of his older imaginary friend, the blind, self-taught working man Francisco de la Cal. Francisco remembers the richness of some lives contrasted with the poverty of his own. Gathered into beehive-like clusters of long, stark lines of hundreds of identical four-inch high, hand carved and hand painted figures of the coal worker Francisco, the tiny figurines announce the new glory days of mass community and sharing. For example, a large black umbrella shelters a rain of little Franciscos, all stained grey and black (Iturralde Gallery, West Hollywood).

Fernando Rodriguez, from the
series "From a Collective
Experience: Up Down", ladder
and wood, 120 x 72 x 40", 2001.

Ruby Osorio presents whimsical drawings in this, her first solo exhibition. They range in size from very large to very small. Almost all juxtapose sewn imagery with delicately drawn ink and gouache figures. Osorio’s is a fantasy world where innocent girls frolic and play. Set against stark white backgrounds, these figures and the landscapes they occupy enliven the page. The drawings are precious as well as suggestive, and establish that Osorio is a budding talent worth watching (cherrydelosreyes, West Los Angeles).

Ruby Osorio, "Serenity" (panel 2 of triptych),
gouache/thread/ink on paper, 23 x 92", 2001.

Three distinct exhibitions, Paul DeMarinis, Matthew Picton, and a group of “Bitchin’ Pictures”, establish numerous parallels and overlaps. Hung in front of the windows and along the ceiling towards a wall is a spidery sculpture by Picton, an English artist not not well known in the United States. This site specific work is composed of small pieces of transparent plastic that comes alive as it inhabits the gallery. The sense of glowing is picked up in DeMarinis’ sound sculpture. Two robotic cars crisscross and dance to the music in a specially built sand pit in the darkened gallery. They leave phosphorescent traces as they race across the track. Finally, Bitchin’ Pictures brings together new works by Christopher Han, Beverly Fishman, and Don Giffin in a small show that looks at new directions in painting and steers a nice parallel course to DeMarinis and Picton (Gallery 2211, Downtown).

Matthew Picton, installation shot, 2002.

Doug Meyer, "Digital Print Portfolio,"
archival ink jet print, 14 x 11", 2002.

Christian Mounger, "Salari #1,"
ink jet print, 12 1/2 x 12 1/2", 2002.

In the pleasantly loopy corridors of this city-run exhibition space, Out of the Digital Domain is a vast array of digital works that don't strain at being too obviously Digitized. They include mostly still images (the photo-like), some moving (the video-like) and some process (the transmitted email attachment-like). Standouts hide around corners and run up and around the walls. Chris Mounger and Robert Wedemeyer's photo-like are little zen puzzles. Joan Kahn and Courtney Hayes' digital transfer of the painterly transcends categories. Karin Korfmann's video-like wall inset work subverts the role of the observer and the observed, having us watch the watchers. Just a few examples of what comes out of the digital domain in the way of compelling artworks (Irvine Fine Arts Center, Orange County).

Be prepared to be swept away by the haunting beauty of Olga Seem’s new body of work. The artist baths sensual biometric forms in dramatic light, enhancing some of the most attractive of her focused views of plant life with brilliant red-orange color. This superb compliment to the blue-green foliage that grows asymmetrically from her dark backgrounds adds an Asian flavor to Seem’s work. Her exquisite handling of texture and details guarantees that the viewer’s thrill will be sustained however closely this work may be scrutinized (frumkin/duval gallery, Santa Monica).

Olga Seem, "Hybrid (5)", a/c, 48 x 36", 2001.

Herbert Hamak makes colorfully transparent works that protrude from the wall. His work, which combines resin binding agents and pigment on linen, fluctuates between painting and sculpture. Hamak is concerned with the mass of color and creates evocative installations that

Herbert Harnak, installation shot, 2002.
explore the subtle relationships between forms and tonalities. The works, mostly uniform in scale, are presented around the perimeter of the gallery. The tones and surfaces achieved in individual works can be marvelous (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Martin Durazo, "Fresh Air 100,"
installation view, mixed media, 2002.

At first glance Martin Durazo’s scattershot installation, entitled Fresh Air 100 seems to be a playpen of throwaway junk. There are condoms attached to the wall, a large wooden platform, two enclosed rooms, numerous videos, a table with sexually related objects, as well as a projection. Durazo states that his works are formal studies of color, shape and texture. He uses the room as a container, and in a sense he then makes three dimensional paintings. How the elements relate seems, but is not arbitrary. Each object is selected to work in tangent, even if obtusely, with the other elements. Despite the initial appearance of randomness it becomes clear that this work is not the result of happenstance (Otis College, Ben Maltzer Gallery, West Side).

Alison Van Pelt has made a career of these spectral works that feature figures, torsos, faces barely visible as auras or specters that fade into rich color. Here are new works of the same format large and small. The images are somehow both vague and exacting, so you may think they are soft focus photographic transfers, or paintings made from same. But these works are in fact all paint and all imagination, and they are filled with passages that are careful and minutely executed. Van Pelt does this so well, and the format is so easily appealing as visual reminders of our memory or dreams, that she needs to take care not to fall into a facile formula (Chac-Mool Gallery, West Hollywood).

Alison Van Pelt, "Untitled Painting on
Paper #200594", oil on paper, 10 x 7", 2001.

Myer Myers, "Dish
Ring," silver, 1770-76.
We have all heard of our super clever, super American Founding Fathers: Franklin the inventor, Jefferson the architect, not to mention the Boston silversmith Paul Revere. Less familiar, but worthy of our attention, Myer Myers was a colonial silversmith who immigrated to New York City in the budding Republic, who was a Jew, and whose remarkable skill gained him the patronage of the elite of New York during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. Perhaps the leading proponent of American Rococo, his work achieved its apogee prior to the Revolution, suffering afterwards from the economic shock of the war, as well as from the shift in taste towards the Neo-Classical. But Myers’ silverwork is a wonderful, eye opening testament to the diversity of the creative spirit. You will be treated to a cache of finely crafted silver objects, as good as any at the Gobelins factory or elsewhere in Europe. On view are accouterments, jewelry and a range of works both functional and as art for its own sake (Skirball Cultural Center, West Los Angeles).

People decry the mixing of art and politics; art makes meaning and meaning is political, so one could argue that all art is in some fashion or another subject to the G forces of social context. Now more than ever. That context makes for remarkable art in Breaking the Silence, a show that includes work from women's workshops in the South African provinces of KwaZulu-Natal. There are indigenous beaded baskets with the AIDS ribbon woven poignantly through (the epidemic threatens to annihilate indigenous design--the symbolism is apt), totemic dolls of lost children, objects incorporating a kind of provincial graffiti/prose that speaks to the horror of moms, wives, sisters as Africa is swept by HIV (UCLA/Fowler Museum of Cultural History, West Los Angeles).

Happiness Ngoma makes beaded
lapel pins that incorporate the image
of the AIDS-awareness ribbon.