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October, 2002

Paul Strand (1890-1976) helped to define modern photography by bringing formalist aesthetic thinking to a reverential attitude towards nature and the landscape. On view are over 20 vintage prints from 1915-1954, including examples of his photo-secessionist style as well as rural landscapes and portraits that illustrate Strand’s interest in capturing how light envelopes and creates form, be it an animate or inanimate object. Also on view is the seven minute film Mannahatta (1925), a collaboration with the painter Charles Scheeler. Man-nahatta is a masterpiece and one of the first avant garde films to explore the city as subject (Griffin Fine Art, Venice).

Paul Strand, "Lathe," 1916.
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive.

The somber, elegant ceramic constructions of John Mason are beholden to constructivism in their homage to planar simplicity and beauty. Fashioned after crosses, spears and figures, the artist’s tack is to work on moves from a center core out to the edges of these chosen forms. He builds up a series of intersecting planes that lean into each other in the definition of the negative space. The antithesis of a vessel, in which the center is hollow and the external membrane solid, Mason reverses the ceramic prerogative to exalt function and celebrate the imagined internal spaces (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

John Mason, "Spear Form, Amber,"
2002, ceramic, 64" high x 26 3/4".

Eleanor Antin, "The Death of Petronius," 2001, chromogenic print, 48 x 96".

In a new series of photographs by veteran conceptualist Eleanor Antin, The Last Days of Pompeii, staged groups of figures are dressed and posed to re-enact moments of life from the ill-fated Roman city. The resulting series of chromogenic prints are both luscious in their visual appeal and beguiling for their multiple levels of interpretation. Clearly reveling in fashioning and recording these Technicolor tableaus, Antin also establishes a complex parallel between the decadence of a mythological ‘Ancient’ past and that of a ‘So Cal’ present. But the work goes beyond simplistic reductions. Like the Pre-Raphaelites, whom she cites and who also drew upon the past to structure their imagery (though with a wholly different perspective on it), these acts of conjuring up a mythic past ultimately implicates the creators of it and their present social and political contexts into the works’ narrative. This forces you to make unexpected connections and deductions which moves the imagination in unpredictable directions (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

Linked together through their use of architectural elements, four mid-career painters from Berlin contribute diverse views of contemporary German aesthetic practices to a group exhibition, Bilder aus Berlin, curated by Ken Freed. Achim Kobe, whose bold, disjointed geometrics disoriented passengers traveling through the Alexanderplatz U-bahn last year, papers the gallery’s front walls with a subtle, mostly blue composition of diagonals in an agile demonstration of spatial illusion. Daniela Brahm announces her affinity to California culture upfront with a wood grain sign that fits in somewhere between Ed Ruscha and Mike Kelley. She continues to work her magic with juxtapositions of other wood grain surfaces against flat colored areas of paint in three large works that push two dimensionality to its limits in unique readings of urban space. Anton Henning shifts the color scheme towards Matisse, setting up a double take by re-inserting images of paintings into a larger geometric interior. Erik Schmidt, also known for his video work, demonstrates convincing dexterity with ink ball and pen drawings on tracing paper. Striking fragments of city scenes are reconstructed on modulated surfaces that underscore unconventional perspectives (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Anton Henning "Interieur
No. 85," 2001, o/c, 75 x 87".

Achim Kobe, "Double," 2002, acrylic ink on paper
(diptych), 194 x 141 in. each; installation view

In J480N R063N83 Jason Rogenes uses the literally lightweight material of polysterene packing materials to create vertical towers that hover above the floor. A fusion of sci-fi spaceships and futuristic electrical towers, these sculptures overtake the gallery space. Connected and powered by bright orange extension cords, the sculptures are lit from within, casting a glow up and down their structures. In addition to the polysterene sculptures, Rogenes also makes doodle-like drawings of the sculptures, outlining the intricacies of form. Concurrent with his exhibition at Vielmetter is an installation at Pomona College, a cardboard environment in which to view his sculptures (Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, West Hollywood; Pomona College Museum of Art, Pomona).

Jason Rogenes, "Project Transmission," 2002, expanded
polysterene, fluorescent light, 24' x 2' x 2.5'

Matthew Brown’s paintings of angels are seductive and other worldly. They glow with an internal illumination that gives them more the appearance of blurry photographs than of paintings. The fact that they are indeed paintings of photographs that Brown took of reproductions of paintings adds another layer to the work: What degree of degeneration is acceptable when viewing reproductions of art? Drawn to Renaissance paintings, Brown photographed (slightly out of focus) details of familiar works, then carefully transferred the imagery to his large canvases. The seemingly monochromatic paintings are lush and painted in such a way as to obliterate the brush strokes--they are near photographic. The images are quite clear when seen from across the room. Close up the imagery is harder to discern, and precisely because of this the paintings transcend kitsch associations to become enigmatic and compelling (Michael Kohn Gallery, West Hollywood).

Matthew Brown, "Touching," 2001, oil
and balsam on canvas, 65 x 67 1/2".

The collection of pinstriped roadsters, decorated cycles, cartooned posters, wacky machines and elaborately engraved small arms by the late Von Dutch provide a peek into a particularly rich slice of the California Custom Culture of which this eccentric character, An American Original as proposed by the title of the exhibition, was a major proponent. Signage of various derivations and some paintings and drawings fill out this well documented contribution, but you don't want to miss the sideshow of tributes from all his companion customizers and the artists who later appreciated his pioneering work (CSU Northridge Art Gallery, Valley).

Von Dutch, installation view from "An American Original".

New York-based artists Lilla LoCurto and William Outcault bring sculpture and self-portraiture to new technology and succeed in taking the fusion to dizzying new levels. The husband and wife team’s goal was to find a way to digitally scan their own bodies, then manipulate the stored data into photographic self-portraits as map projections. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Lyman Allyn Museum supported the project, which also required access to and use of a whole body scanner located at the U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Systems Command in Massachusetts. LoCuto and Outcault's efforts result in a series of phantasmagorically rendered and printed images that are at once elegant and grotesque. They playfully blend a Botticellian sense of Renaissance/mythic grandeur with a post-modern fetishistic morbidity suggestive of Francis Bacon (CSU Long Beach, University Art Museum, Long Beach).

Lilla LoCurto and William Outcault, “Kharchenko-Shabanova
BS1sph(8/6)_798,” 1999, chromogenic print laminated and moun-
ted on aluminum, 48 x 57.5”, is on view at CSU Long Beach.

Tracy Nakayama, "'Cause Everybody Wants
to Feel Good," 2002, ink on paper, 10 x 9".

Carlee Fernandez continues her impressive foray into sculptural Surrealism through taxidermy. Focusing on small precious birds and branches, the artist skewers nature's little warblers with the very twigs upon which they sing. The subtext is palatable violence, life and death, all presented in a manner that at first glance is almost too clean, but winds up being skillfully surgical, both on the physical and the conceptual plane. Inaugurating the gallery’s project space is Brooklyn's Tracy Nakayama, a dextrous draftswoman and able watercolorist. Her one-color painted drawings of intimate sexual positions are so frank that they are almost still lives of anyone's ordinary sexual encounters. Practically the opposite of exploits, these candid paintings take the shock out of sex, reintroducing its ordinariness in blissfully painted snippets (Acuna-Hansen Gallery, Downtown).

Carlee Fernandez, "Rat with Grapes," 2002, altered taxidermic animal and mixed media, 4 x 14 x 4".

Paintings that juxtapose textual fragments to bits and pieces of symbolic imagery and blurred or pixelated landscapes comprise the world that Bari Kumar proposes in the exhibition Neither Here Nor There. Anxious about the status of traditional religious and moral imagery in the age of advertising and digital culture, Kumar's ‘Adams and Eves’ are set adrift in a sea of probable misinterpretation. Curse words float by in front of the nude figures, along with weaponry and other incongruous images of misplaced objects. In this dream world, the focus is displaced, time is out of joint--and may be running out (Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica).

Bari Kumer, "Know Where," 2002, 0/c, 30 x 40".

Richard Shelton, "After the Meeting," 2002, o/c.
A master of the realist canvas that balances the feel of a dream with taut abstract composition, Richard Shelton has had previous successful shows in which Everyman--with all of the wry gender implications that idea holds--repeatedly inhabits ambiguous, intensely lit spaces, his shadow often more animated than he. They remain interesting beyond the first visual scan because Shelton is able to generate, with a minimum of expertly executed information, open ended narratives that keep you "in" the work the way a good mystery can. The current pieces add more players to the scenarios. The nearly Baroque light that animates the paintings is still here, but instead of one isolated usually suited man navigating empty space, Shelton quite intentionally and to good end brings us closer into more peopled dramas that turn certain art historical givens on their ear: Power brokers in three-piece suits and Wall Street suspenders look away from us, hardly notice each other and hardly notice the naked, rather than nude, woman slouched most realistically on what could be either the silk bed of Manet's Odalisque, or a doctor’s examining table (frumkin/duval gallery, Santa Monica).

Robert Sean Coons, "Adoring Freedom," 2001, 0/c, 18 x 72".

Robert Sean Coons’ catalogue draws this introductory quote from Martin Puryear: “The strongest work for me embodies contradiction, which allows for emotional tension and the ability to contain opposed ideas.” Coons’ paradoxical work definitely follows suit. Apparently a comment on themes of love and war, these realist oil paintings were produced in repeat motif style, including rows of fishing lures, squadrons of World War II-styled bombers and fighter planes, schools of fish and swarms of insects. On immediate glance you have a literal perception of the grouped objects, though less obviously hovering in the foreground are a series of erotic images: a woman performing oral sex, two women kissing, women’s bodies and more. Does heterosexual erotica constitute something thematically synonymous with notions of peace? Maybe not, but Coons’ dextrous technical hand is given further appeal via his audacious wit (Robert Berman Gallery, D-5 Projects, Santa Monica).

Iona Rozeal Brown, "blackface #7,"
2002, acrylic on wood panel, 18 x 12".
Even before McDonald’s invaded Japan, Asian youth were appropriating various aspects of Western culture. Iona Rozeal Brown, who has traveled extensively in Japan and recently received her MFA in painting from Yale, has chosen to create a series of works that investigate Japanese and Korean youth culture’s infatuation with emulations of hip-hop stars. Brown’s paintings seem all the more remarkable to anyone possessing some familiarity with Ukiyo-e prints such as works by Utamaro Kitagawa. Like the late 18th-century artist, who idealized and typologized his three-quarter views of bijinga, or beautiful women, Brown manages to capitalize on the use of furyu, the latest in style. She eroticizes her flat images, transforming the elegant coiffures portrayed by Japanese masters into Afros, morphing the dull white surface of made-up faces into brown masks, and lacing the textile patterns of kimonos with logos of record companies and international corporations. These cross cultural references reflect concerns that transcend the realms of art or music now that so many folks seem to be coveting signifiers formerly considered the exclusive property of specific races or groups (Sandroni Rey, Venice).

Florian Maier-Aichen, a young German born, L.A.-based artist uses the computer to create and erase reality. His digitally manipulated images of the landscape and urban environment are fictions based on actual photographs. Maier-Aichen’s transformations are subtle, and he is a skilled manipulator. The works explore the mass marketing of the landscape and reference travel. Maier-Aichen conveys a world view that is less than optimistic. He presents rose colored snow covered alps, a smog infested city, and while it is not always immediately apparent what is askew in the images, with examination the fiction jumps out from the mundane (Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica).

Florian Maier-Aichen, "Untitled (Freeway
Crash)," 2002, c-print, 48 1/4 x 61 3/4".

Oscar Muñoz, "Secuencia" from "Narciso",
2001, colorphotographs, 23 1/2 x 15 3/4" each.
Columbian Oscar Muñoz has been making photo-based conceptual works for the last decade. Bringing the highly poetic, intense and evocative Latin American ethos to concept work, Muñoz explores post modern notions of identity--personal and socially constructed--using his longtime motif of the Greek God fascinated with himself, Narcissus. Muñoz made sensitive line drawings of his own visage, floated the image in moving water, and then apparently shot the images with fast moving frames: The results depend on the camera's being able to "stop" the natural flow of experience, and in fact record the distortions of the line drawing caused by the water, the technology, the viewer's eye. As the images morph and bleed, you might reflect on the nature of mimesis, the ethereal and fleeting quality of the artists' signature mark and of experience itself. Other works include new videos that also deal with identity and the body (Iturralde Gallery, West Hollywood).

In Transport: 3 One-Person Exhibitions curator Anne Ayres has brought together the work of three Los Angeles artists, giving each an ample amount to space in which to create their works. The artists were given the opportunity to use the gallery as a studio and create expansive paintings and sculptures. Keith Sklar’s Wall Work for Food is a large scale site specific painting in which abstract and representation forms co-exist, creating a quasi narrative about food and eating that features sculpted forms as well as painted figures. Shirley Tse uses the gallery’s skylight to position her floor work entitled Sprawl. Here plastic forms fuse to create an abstract work that references the architecture of the gallery. Valley Mestroni makes her work out of wire and plastic. The work dances in the back end of the gallery. Entitled Blue-Sky, this installation depicts the stages of the creative process through the presentation of both initial drawings and the finished sculptural works (Otis College, Ben Maltz Gallery, West Side).

Installation view of "Transport:
3 One-Person Exhibitions."

Belle Baraceanu, "The
Skunk," 1944, woodcut.

Harold Cohen, "0204-16," 2002,
digital print by AARON program.

In A Good Impression: A Century of Printmaking in San Diego the focus is narrow--just prints, just San Diego artists. Still this exhibit offers insights into the past century of art and the larger world as well. Belle Baranceanu’s notable Drill Baboon was a 1940 addition to her depression-era W.P.A. project. With at least one selection from every decade of those 100 years, printing’s venerable history, from aquatint to woodcut, is well represented. But the exhibit’s emphasis (almost half the artworks) is the past ten years. It’s clear from this exhibition that the electronic explosion has struck the print world a direct hit. There are the usual digital prints and digitally enhanced photos. But the most striking--both aesthetically and in their generation--are two prints (both from 2002) by Harold Cohen. Cohen’s program, Aaron, doesn’t merely manipulate imagery; rather, it thinks through the process of creating imagery. Also clear in this exhibit is that, although artists find the intriguing potential of the new seductive, they also recognize the undeniable staying power of the traditional (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).

Five to eight million Americans suffer from eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia and compulsive overeating. Even as the media warn us about such issues, they simultaneously inundate us with impossibly idealized body images for both sexes. In Eating Disorders in a Disordered Culture California artists Robin Lasser and Kathryn Sylva have created a compelling aesthetic response to these problems. Eating Disorders is a visual research project designed for gallery and museum exhibitions, public art spaces such as billboards and bus shelters, and the Web (www.eating. The beautifully designed interactive exhibition component centers around a large dining table at which viewers sit and listen to personal stories of eating disorder survivors (College of the Canyons Art Gallery, Valley).

Robin Lasser and Kathryn Sylva, "Eating Disorders
in a Disordered Culture," 2000, installation.

Doug Buis, "Hot Summer Day,"
2002, mixed media installation.

Rebecca Niederlander, "a crop," 2002, plastics/
acrylics/cellulose/LED lighting, 79 x 46 x 19".

Based on the lost art of visually entering a hidden realm through a small aperture, in The Peep Show the big person becomes the small person wandering through 6-inch doors, windows, landscapes and illusions created by Doug Buis, Neil Korten, Keith Lord, and Michael McMillan. In Lord's night-lit buildings, if you stare long enough, the silent city comes alive; its sounds are heard from within; and your eye begins to unfold a story that is more in the mind than in the artists' construction. Buis adds humor to illusion, and why not? Trees, cows, and trains appear to be a few feet (inches really) off the ground in his rural "handcrafted cyberspace." Korten recreates the atmospheric experience of being, ironically, on a vast, secluded mountain; while McMillan’s The Museum of Distraction is a surreal arrangement of video and dislocated objects. Exhibition curator Carl Berg unveils the illusion by placing Korten's and Lord's work behind the gallery's glass walls, instead, as in the other pieces, of building walls to hide them. Outside in the courtyard the guts of the ingenious illusions are exposed, which does not lessen, but actually enhances, their delight. Two installations on either side of the exhibition echo the theme of illusion and its magical effects. Allen Tombello's camera obscura translates real people gyrating alongside a large, bouncy, constellation-like mobile in one area into reverse wall illusions in the darkened next room. Rebecca Niederlander’s a crop deals solely with background. The viewer gropes through a pitch-black space to encounter a semi-illuminated landscape of snow-covered trees. Eliminating the protagonist, the artist focuses on an overlooked aspect of vision, the scene behind the action, that which our mind crops out. A closer look reveals that what you see is not always real. The silent black mountain is built from household mixing bowls (Irvine Fine Arts Center, Orange County).