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November, 2002

Arnold Mesches, "Frederick R.
Weisman," 1984, a/c, 72 x 60".

Lita Albuquerque, "Elle et Lui," 1982-84, oil and
pigment on Kimdura paper and wood with copper
mounted on board (6 parts), 84 x 123 x 5".
Expect to find the “usual suspects” in this star-studded gathering of works by nearly forty California artists in Tenth Anniversary Celebration: California Art from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation. Underlying the show is the dynamic presence of the late donor (for whom the campus gallery is also named). Arnold Mesches’ vivid, close-up portrait of Weisman hangs at the entrance to the gallery, facing Beau Bradford’s re-do of Matisse’s Red Room interior that incorporates the collector’s trophies. Ed Ruscha’s huge oil on canvas, Please… alludes to motivators that make dreams come true at the endpoint of Western expansion, with its carrot dangling from a stick painted over a “sunset” background. Examples of California’s finish fetish, light and space, pop and cool school abound, but the beauty is in the superb quality of so many of the works. An early eighties, altar-like triptych by Lita Albuquerque so artfully employs Jungian symbols that it blows away her recent contributions to Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. Peter Alexander’s Dabs, a large, luxurious work on black velvet from the same period, is magically sensuous. Ed Moses’ early red painting confronts the more gestural Helix, done over a decade later. Other prime examples by Billy Al Bengston, Joe Goode, Tom Wudl, and Ken Price hint at the depth of Weisman’s commitment to California art of from the 1960s until his death in 1994. David Hockney bends the walls of the Metropolitan Opera House in a photo collage that evokes Frank Gehry’s more recent transgressions with space. And the legacy continues in works selected by Weisman’s widow, including two haunting pieces by Tim Hawkinson that contort representations of the artist’s body in space, and a jewel of a painting in glass micro-spheres and acrylic, Untitled (Center Yellow Band) by Mary Corse (Pepperdine University, West Side).

Alienation and cultural displacement are facts of life for the young directors of space featured in Space Invaders: Emerging British Architecture. This touring show, launched in 2001 at the Experimental Design Biennale in Lisbon, features work by fifteen of the UK’s brightest younger architectural firms, known for their willingness to cross disciplines and borders to incorporate graphic design, advertising and the visual arts into their projects. The layout of the exhibition consists of groupings of easily transportable, backlit display cases, designed to highlight the diverse interests and personalities of the individual practices and their sense of spontaneity and mobility. A series of video interviews with each director personalizes their work and aids the viewer in navigating the dense packaging of drawings, sketches, visualizations, CAD images, video clips and models condensed into the display boxes. Along with documentation of recent projects, ranging from London hair salons to port terminals in Yokohama, are statements of each firm’s architectural philosophy, summed up in this motto from KDa, “The failed utopias of the 20th century are the playgrounds of the 21st” (Art Center College, Pasadena).

Installation view, "Space Invaders:
Emerging British Architecture", 2002.

Darren Waterston makes beautiful yet unsettling paintings that explore where the natural landscape and the imagination intersect. Influenced by traditions in art history as well as by the decorative arts and Orientalism, Waterston’s evocative forms float in and out between the foreground and background space. The works are allegorical yet full of personal symbols. The application of paint and subtle texturing conveys an airy atmosphere that is populated by biomorphic shapes and quasi-realistic forms (Michael Kohn Gallery, West Hollywood).

Darren Waterston, "Path,"
2002, o/c, 60 x 24".

Simply entitled New Photographs, Uta Barth’s new works are nothing more than a series of untitled color photographs. Presented as a freize that encircles the gallery, these images (dyptychs, triptychs, as well as groups of four and five) are subtle meditations on the banal view out of a window. The trees, telephone poles, criss-crossing wires, and even a bird here or there have been digitally manipulated and presented as a series of moments. A clear image becomes a blur, then becomes a negative. A color panel is inserted between two seemingly black and white images of trees. Complex relationships between the images are activated, allowing for readings back and forth amongst the pictures. The images work together. They are about what is present, what is absent, what is observed and what is overlooked. Barth infuses these landscape views with more than meets the eye (Acme Gallery, West Hollywood).

Uta Barth, installation view of untitled photographs, 2002.

Jean Baptiste Greuze died in 1805 with the distinction of having brought to the French Academy the new subject matter of genre--people scenes, scenes from daily life--at a time when the French artistic machine allowed for mostly insipid images of sexual dalliances by pink-cheeked doll looking figures favored by the likes of Mademoiselle de Pompadour, the frilled and corseted lover of Louis XVth. Sometime during the 1730’s the intellectual elite demanded that art and content get more serious, and genre painting became acceptable subject matter for "high" Academic art. Courbet later inherited the momentum of this change and heralded realism. The sappiness and high drama of the Rococo can still be seen here, but Greuze brought a new somberness and helped revive new respect for classical draftsmanship with this change. His amazing draftsmanship is front and center in a show that traces that artist's contribution to the humanizing of subject matter and style that lent to the fading of the Rococo. These are mostly preparatory drawings for large canvases we know well--laundresses and damsels in distress. Besides recognizing Grueze's important position as an academic painter who fought for a paradigm shift toward what seemed to him at the time more realist, anyone who sees this show will have a renewed respect for the truly masterful skill that went into his emotional slices of life (J. Paul Getty Museum, West Los Angeles).

Media is, according to artist/curator Joseph Santarromana, "Quite simply a group of media artists who are creating work in the shadow of Hollywood, or a group of Los Angeles media artists in the belly of the beast." Video works by S.E. Barnet, Eileen Cowin, Sandra De La Loza, Todd Gray, Hilary Mushkin, Kyungmi Shin, Erika Suderburg, and Santarromana are presented as projections or monitor-based works. Although viewing numerous videos often requires more work and takes more time than looking at static images, this group provides sufficient rewards and insight into what local video artists are interested in. Santarromana is to be commended for his keen eye and foresight that brings these diverse artists together (at the Brewery Project, Downtown).

Erika Suderburg, "Blue Sentence", 2002.

Jessica Bronson explores landscape themes in her compelling video installations. Using the computer and digital video she has developed a process whereby she flips, mirrors and reverses her footage to create kaleidoscopic montages on multiple monitors. The images are coupled with a track that juxtposes obtuse atmospheric and industrial sounds. The installation Manifold Reflections situates six large monitors on mirrored pedestals. Each seems to depict the same images of the changing sky. But when you spend some time examining the images, their subtle differences and how they are joined reveal themselves, making for engaging comparisons (Mary Goldman Gallery, Downtown).

Jessica Bronson, "manifold reflections," 2002, monitors/DVDs/DVD
players/external controller/cables/wood/mirror.

Jamie Scholnick had a wonderful riposte to the cutesy Hello Kitty doll. When she wasn't filling the gallery with murals of Hello Kitty--dressed as a ninja, armed with a machine gun--splaying an abstract expressionist crayola shower all about, the artist made an installation of Hello Kitty's ostensible bedroom as a setting to view her video Hello Kitty Gets a Mouth, a live action short of plastic surgery as the ultimate means to release. Sholnick may not be beating down any of Hollywood's doors when it comes to producing live action shorts, but her supple juxtaposition of angry ninja Kittys with delicate lacey detailing reveals an artist with a hand of extreme talent and a mind of kinky subversion (POST Gallery, Downtown).

Jamei Scholnick, "Bedroom" from "Hello Kitty Gets
a Mouth", 2002, installation, variable dimensions.

Within the darkened gallery space the work of six artists who explore multi media and digital technologies are brought together in The Same Thing We Do Every Night. Based on the assumption that technology is an addiction, works by James Buckhouse, Janine Cirincione and Michael Ferraro, Gabriel Fowler, Yucef Merhi and Jason Salavon use the stuff as both form and content. Sound and projected images overlap in the gallery space, making contemplative viewing impossible--but that is the point. The artists want to assult your senses and sensibilities in order to present you with the unexpected. And they succeed in presenting a diverse body of engaging works that push the limits of present technologies (The Project, Downtown).

A trio of artists present a successful mix of figurative paintings and abstract sculpture. Pamela Grau-Twena’s series Beyond the Veil is gossamer water media portraits of her young daughter; in a second group About Power, the subject is windmills observed in Palm Desert. The common ground between them is vulnerability. The young girl, just reaching puberty, represents the artist herself, hidden in the shadows yet exposed. Similarly, the windmills are another form of insecurity, here from an incomprehensible technological world. Gordon Huether constructs In Nature’s Light, sensitive architectural sculptures concocted from assorted discarded materials, a manipulation of light, shadows, and water that assume the illusion of a garden and forest. Dennis Cubbage paints patterns and language as a measurement of his own memory and personal history (Orange County Center for Contemporary Art [OCCCA], Orange County).

Peter Zokovsky is part of the resurgence of figurative painting. This show helps confirm that he is among the leaders of the pack that marks a return to skilled craftsmanship and anatomical precise virtuosity. Art historian Ron Steen states in the excellent video on Zokowsky that accompanies the exhibition that, "Good art is content-laden." Here is the crux of the matter. Whether abstract or figurative, art needs content, and Zokovsky's art is bursting with it. His solo exhibitions often have the look of a group show. Dominant in this exhibition, Under the Skin is the artist's rendition of the nude figure, one without skin, and as a skeleton. Depictions of animals are in human terms and vice versa--a rabbit in the flesh and as a skeleton, all sorts of primates doing beastlike and human things, such as a goat walking on two legs, and the human nude as a fish swimming in a vast ocean. Zokovsky's mesmerizing, sometimes bizarre, subject matter evokes endless reflection. The artist explores the nature of all living creatures beneath the physical and spiritual surface to arrive at a fresher and deeper understanding of life itself (CSUF Grand Central Gallery, Orange County).