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December, 2002

John Baldessari, "Junction Series:
Landscape, Seascape, Prisoner, and
Acrobats," 2002, digital photographic prints
with acrylic on sintra board, 84 3/4 x 63 3/4".
John Baldessari is the master of appropriation and juxtaposition. For his new exhibition, the first in L.A. in five years, this colorful work adds (yes!) drawing and painting in large quantity to his familiar enigmatic digital photographs and B-movie stills presented in multi-panel works. In these large scale pieces images overlap or are connected through painted lines that move from panel to panel. The arrangement of the panels in the Intersection Series are variations on a cross; in the Junctions Series the center of the panel composition are left empty. They are as engaging to look at as anything Baldessari has ever done, but there is also more than meets the eye, as befits this founding father of conceptual art. In addition to the large-scale works also on exhibit is a series of small-scale works, digital prints that are mounted on graph papers. These are precise images that further illustrate the complexity of Baldessari’s vision. What at first glance seems to be a simple joining of two disparate images in actuality is a pointed commentary on politics, consumerism, and visual culture (Margo Leavin, West Hollywood).

Sylvia Glass' new work, Shadows, is a mystical, yet nostalgic look at detritus gathered by friends as well as the artist consisting of weeds, stones, nails and bones. Delicately placed on "canvas"--actually 7 layers of waxed muslin--Glass uses found objects which she then duplicates on the canvas with paint in order to create the "shadow" of a memory, of an object, of a place. In sewing her canvas together, she leaves traces of threads hanging from the surface, like a memory that may coalesce, or not. Some of the objects were collected at the Coliseum in Rome, or in Athens, or in the artist’s backyard. There is a very strong jawbone duplicated in "drawing" to create a musical instrument. There are shells and nests of birds, broken eggshells, all of which are enclosed in a collection of frames which are themselves found. More than nostalgia, these memories universalize so much of often neglected nature. It is all fodder in the hands of this distinctive artist, who finds her media as she walks and travels. Her palette has lightened up, as she directs our eyes to contemplate her memories, transferring them, in effect, to us to further enrich with our own contemplation. It is what any artist seeks to do, communicating a new language to enlarge our own. Glass is adept at it (Jan Baum Gallery, West Hollywood).

Sylvia Glass, "Fall, " 2002,
mixed media, 16 x 12".

Jim Isermann, "Vega" (detail), 2002,
vinyl decals, dimensions variable.
Jim Isermann covers the enormous expanse of the museum’s entry wall with brightly colored thermal die-cut vinyl decals creating a geometric patterns in yellow, orange, red, blue and green. Entitled Vega, this floor to ceiling work juxtaposes rectangles with rounded edges of varying sizes to create complex patterns of seemingly simple shapes. Isermann’s placement and layout is not arbitrary but mathematically derived and exact. The spaces between are as exciting as the presence of the decal. Working with the ideals of minimalism and modernism, this work explores where art and design merge--an Isermann trademark. His lobby installation is one of the most convincing works to have occupied this space (UCLA Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

Exploring ideas of shelter and sanctuary, and man's ritualistic, obsessive and decadent translation of these as concepts, urban pods and tents serve as the central theme for Kenneth Ober, Renee Fox and Tom Steck. Ober’s multicultural magical devices appear as if they should be part of some ritual event. He utilizes text from English, Sanskrit, Arabic, and Chinese in conjunction with contemporary interpretations of magical diagrams from around the world. These ideas are combined with aesthetics from the modern art world in order to create objects and images that allude to the fusion of spiritual inclinations with material production. Fox utilizes formal characteristics such as contrasts in surface treatment, interaction of color, movement of line, illusion and creation of dimensionality to evoke a sense of wonder. Steck regards his tent series as a metaphor of the self, as well as symbolic sources ranging from the Old Testament to the circus (Orbetello Gallery, Hollywood).

Renee Fox, "Marilyn's
Legacy," 2002, o/c, 6 x 7'.

Olivier Christinat, "New York, January
25th, 1945", 2002, photograph.
Olivier Christinat is a Swiss artist who makes staged photographs of groups of men and women. Christinat explores the body and your, the viewer’s, relationship to nudity. He is at ease photographing both men and women, and enjoys putting you in an uncomfortable position. In one suite of photographs each image depicts a bare chested woman seated at a desk staring out at the viewer. The subjects’ body types are obviously different, yet as we compare and contrast we simultaneously feel we are being judged. Interested in the range of emotions a photograph can provoke, Christinat makes at once beautiful and confrontational images (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

The concept of beauty, as it principally applies to women, is Deborah Paswaters' signature image. Throughout the years, she has evolved a slightly imperfect Venus figure, a gossamer siren in a long flowing gown that Paswaters places in intriguing architectural settings--painted environments or real wood cabinets, doors, stain glass windows, or carved into clay, often with a large flower that echoes female loveliness. The elusive figure always strikes a graceful pose. She is often alone, independent, even when accompanied by her male counterpart. In the current series, Light, Paswaters, an intuitive artist, freely allows iconography of former work to reappear. Yet, for the most part, she eliminates much of the romantic trappings--flowers, trees, door, and windows. This minimizes content to the central form.

Deborah Paswaters, "Open" (Light),
2002, mixed media, 18" x 24".

By focusing on color and space as it affects the Venus figure, rather than be concerned with an environment in which she exists, the work becomes less decorative and more robust. Wood panels are divided into blocks of color through which the graceful, ballet-like body glides. An upper portion of a painting may be a vibrant blue, which slices through the female with a block of yellow. Or an electric red is pitted against a rich yellow or violet. What stands out is Paswaters’ brushwork and thickly textured surface. In the past, she achieved an impasto by incorporating encaustics. Here she renders a richness of ground by working the paint until it is a lusciously textured surface on which a web of lines defines the figure (Marion Meyer Contemporary Art, Orange County).

Georges Rouault, "Le Jongleur", 1930,
color aquatint from "Cirque Suares".
1000 Clowns, Give or Take a Few is a two gallery exhibition organized by gallery director Robert Berman and actress Diane Keaton as an upshot of their mutual, yet coincidental, mania for acquiring all art clown related. Here thrift store clichés pose alongside fine art, everything hung salon style to fill the walls of both spaces. Some of the clown images are funny, some are pathetic, some are paint by numbers, others on velvet. Ranging in size and medium, as well as in the level of competency of their creator, by juxtaposing works by naïve and amateur artists with those by master artists--including the likes of Jonathan Borofsky, Bruce Nauman, Raymond Petibon and Alexander Calder--curators Berman and Keaton are able to present a range of work that offers numerous, and some surprisingly provocative interpretations of the clown as icon (Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica).

Rebecca Campbell has a first solo show of fairly large realist oil on canvas paintings worked to call up, in an odd way, the high contrast, intensely contoured style you get from digitized, computer generated film imagery. When the camera was first popularized and it began to replace and democratize the venerated painted portrait, artists ran to ape the camera's function as document and the styles of realism and Impressionism were born. In like fashion, these intensely lit, high contrast paintings of people and interiors tap into the increasingly vernacular, saturated, celluloid look of a computer generated movie still, as art and technology dance and dialogue around each other eternally (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

Rebecca Campbell, "Discipline," 2002, o/c, 96 x 144".

Tom LaDuke, "Twin," 2002,
castilene, watercolor/glass
beads/crepe paper, 8 1/2 x 7 x 5".
In Terrane Los Angeles painter Tom LaDuke’s second solo exhibition here, he depicts quintessential Los Angeles landscapes. These seemingly simple, banal scenes are instantly recognizable to the L.A. freeway rider. Large expanses of sky and building facades fuse in LaDuke’s white on white paintings. Are we looking at smog filled vistas or a representation of L.A.’s bright sunshine? In LaDuke’s carefully painted and sculpted towers, trees and buildings and distant mountains can be discerned above the horizon line. Yet, at first glance it appears as though there is nothing there. In addition to these evocative paintings, LaDuke also presents three sculptures. His acute attention to detail is even more evident in the three dimensional works. While too subtle to be sensationalist, in terms of quality they are sensational works (Angles Gallery, Santa Monica).

Bruce Davidson's suite of works called Time of Change chronicle the civil rights years between 1961 and 1965. Recall that the Civil Rights Amendment was passed under great duress in 1964. Here is the thing about these photos: as you watch a radical shift in paradigim demanded violently by some, more passively by others, and as you watch the stone faced resistance to same, you are seduced by the sheer formal craft and design of every on the fly shot. There is a humaness that propells these events beyond the realm of politics (Rose Gallery, Santa Monica).

Bruce Davidson, "Untitled, NYC", 1962,
from "A Time of Change, 1961-1965.
Reproduction courtesy of Bruce Davidson,
Magnum Photos and Rose Gallery.

Robert Motherwell, installation view, 2002.
Given the musical analogue that the late Abstract Expressionist master Robert Motherwell was comfortable applying to his artistic practice, this is an exhibition of bagatelles and etudes. Such work, covering a span of more than 40 years, is hardly trivial however, offering a lot of the visual clues that inform a good many of his major efforts as well as moments that are rewarding for their own sake. Most works here were run-ups to series of major paintings--in particular the Elegies to the Spanish Republic, Beside the Sea, and Opens. This installation is not only full of Motherwell’s poetic elegance on intimate scale, it ends up feeling like a miniaturized or compressed version of the kind of full dress retrospective we’d love to see at one of our major museum venues (Manny Silverman Gallery, West Hollywood).

A selection of sculpture and drawings bracket thirty-six years of Lynn Chadwick's mature output. His skeptical brand of post-War modernism emphasized abstracted human and insect forms, dark monsters not subject to the moderating force of reason. The hybrid insect forms remain especially affecting. In both bronze sculpture and drawings executed under the powerful influence of then current cubistic formal notions and existentialist thinking are infused with mutated forms that distinguish themselves for their rich emotional blend (Tasende Gallery, West Hollywood).

Lynn Chadwick, "Conjunction V,"
1957, bronze, 21" high.

Rolfe Horn, "Dusk, Izumo, Japan,"
2001, toned gelatin silver print, 10 x 10".
Devoting much of his efforts to picturesque visions of nature, photographer Rolfe Horne creates stunning translations of expansive, ethereal landscapes, which reinterpret and embellish the wonderment of nature. Horne’s latest work observes the remote shrines of Japan and the enchanting ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There are also athletes and local scenes, the urban and the mundane transformed into dramatic visual images. Angles, lighting and technique successfully reinterpret the subjects, transforming them to wondrous surrealist visions rather than simple black and white photojournalistic pieces. Apparently Horn feels that there are already enough people repeating the tired Western landscape tradition of the old masters, hence he is looking for a new style of visual storytelling, one that relies more on viewers’ visual acumen (White Room, West Hollywood).

Art and Film in the Age of Anxiety: Selections from the 2002 Whitney Biennial presents a selection of works, which to see in their entirety would require more than three hours of viewing time. But much of the time spent will be well worth it, and the viewing is made easier by the Museum having created a separate room for each presentation, including a posted schedule of the works’ show times and length. Most are narratives, so it can be difficult to come in halfway through and still be able to get a sense of the work. The selection chosen by Whitney film curator Crissie Iles ranges from the abstract to the didactic. Chemical Sundown by Jeremy Blake is engaging no matter where you come in. His digital abstractions fuse modernist colors with quasi urban landscapes. Irit Batsry’s 80-minute film These are Not My Images (Neither There Nor Here) is the longest work in the show. Her dreamlike meditation on Southern India received the prestigious Bucksbaum Award. The other pieces are Bosmat Alon and Tirtza Even’s Kayam Al Hurbano (Existing on Its Ruins); The Holy Artwork by Christian Jankowski; The Glass System by Mark Lapore and the particularly fine The Tower of Industrial Life by filmmaker Alfred Guzzetti (Santa Monica Museum, Santa Monica).

Jeremy Blake, "Chemical Sundown"
frame, 2000-01, digital video/color/sound,
12:30 minutes (continuous loop).