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March, 2003

Alfred Jensen, “The Great Pyramid,"
1980, oil on canvas, 90 x 360 ”.
Photo: Roger Marshutz.
Alfred Jensen, Concordance, curated by Lynne Cook of the Dia Center for the Arts in New York City, is a stunning selection of ten large scale paintings. Jensen (1903-1981) was best known for his checkerboard-like paintings in which numbers, symbols, and words served as the means to explore systems, theories of color, light and time, and even the I Ching. The heavily impastoed works rely on a limited palette of primary colors: red, yellow, blue, black and white. The selections on view are representative highlights from Jensen's vast oeuvre (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).

Charles Arnoldi, "Untitled," 2002, gouache on collaged paper, 16 7/8 x 44 7/8".

Charles Arnoldi is an established master of the quick paced, interwoven straight edge. In this series, which includes monotypes, gouaches and some graphite-on-paper works, Arnoldi introduces an atypical theme: the gestural arch or circular line moving though abstract compositions with the same energy as his signature stippled skeins. Don't assume that it's the same old fare (Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Santa Monica).

Laura Hull, "Lake," color photograph.

It is a nice idea but one that will have post structuralist feminists furrowing their brow. Shouts, Whispers and Cheers is the title of a six woman, diverse media show curated by Dr. Irina Costache. The words refer to the modalities with which women speak or are heard in their creative and personal lives: they are bold, they are subtle and they are triumphant. Sounds pretty good, if not all that subtle or vast a range of experience. The good news is that the works by these six artists are more than solid. Some have been around for a long time and show paradigm pieces--for example Laura Hull’s photographs of hushed domestic spaces. Also of interest are the multi media works of L.A. veteran Barbara Drucker, and Samantha Fields' paintings that do "shout" their message (Mount St. Mary’s College, West Los Angeles).

Cecilia Miguez, "Explorers," 2002,
wood/steel/found objects, 56 x 51 x 16".

Richard Bruland, “My Lagoon,”
2003, acrylic on board, 24 x 48”.
Richard Bruland’s East of Western show is uncompromising in its pursuit of the “flat, picture plane” on the wall, after Clement Greenberg’s articulate insistence of the late 1940s. The viewer is directly presented with lovingly handcrafted flat objects that are mounted on a wall. They assert themselves as artificial objects with an alien primacy. A you move back and forth, a physical space within the picture plane seems to perceptually cohere, a three-dimensional containment of haze and atmosphere.
Using an undercoating of graduated tertiary color overlayed with a textured clear medium, the artist applies a second coat of different secondary or tertiary hues over the sandwiched clear medium. With a sanding block he then proceeds to even out the raised areas of the clear medium and to gradually expose the undercoating. This process of perceptual discovery, of layering and revelation of accidental shapes as the bumps in the surface are worn away, continues for a viewer looking at and “through” the random filigree of shapes produced. A sense of exploration informs these works and though they may seem to suggest imagery such as roadways going off into the haze of the distance, or upper and lower atmospheres of the sky, they remain resolutely and elegantly just what they are: handcrafted flat objects, mysterious touchstones that question how we see the world, which point at once away from it and towards it. There is a powerful, almost monastic, self-sufficiency in all of this (Gallery 825 Annex, Santa Monica).

Don Ed Hardy, "Buddha's Hood,"
2001, acrylic on tyvek, 35 3/4 x 25 1/4".

Bob Roberts, "Something about someone doing
somebody," 1999, watercolor on paper, 30 x 22".

Two long time collaborators in non traditional body art, Don Ed Hardy and Bob Roberts date back to SF tattoo parlors that predate the current craze. Serious about this as an artform, Hardy studied body marking in Japan, and is still based in SF. Roberts makes his home here in LA. This show features works not on skin but in watercolor. The delicious designs feature complex signs and symbols that yoke pop to grunge, Asia to tattoo flash. Everything that comprises the post modern blur of experience--from sex to violence to Tibetan Buddhism--is woven into images that both artists approach with the "one chance/find the form" strokes that tattooing requires (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Suzanne Williams’ drawings and paintings dating from 1965 to 2000 have aesthetic roots Op, Pop and the Psychedelic art of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, but there are also stylistic and conceptual connections to earlier Constructivism and Modernism. Her pristinely delineated forms and superior mastery of color recall the austere elegance of stripe paintings on one hand, and the kaleidoscopic forms and colors of psychedelic art on the other. The works evidence that Williams has both technical ability and innovative vision. Never does one get the feeling of looking at hippie-era leftovers. Yet, for contemporary viewers steeped in the resurgence of figurative and representational art and, on the other side of the spectrum, abstraction, Williams’ unflinching perfection may seem cold, even jarring. However, to those who believe that even in art the past is prologue, it will appear refreshing and new again (CSUF Grand Central Art Center, Orange County).

Suzanne Williams, no title, painting.

William Blake, "The Night of
Enitharmon's Joy," 1795, color print.
Though many important artists have written poetry, and a host of poets have painted or worked in other visual media, William Blake (1757-1827) is among the very few whose work in both fields has had lasting historical significance. The Huntington has one of the world’s best collections of Blake’s works in both arenas, and this exhibition, Vision and Verse, represents the most comprehensive selection from the collection yet placed on public view. There are wonderful examples of Blake's illuminated books, as well as some of his finest watercolors and pencil drawings, including three stunningly expressive suites of watercolor illustrations of Milton’s poetry. Throughout, Blake renders both classical biblical themes and stories, and creates his own existentially-based moralistic cosmology in boldly figured and wildly imaginative works that confirm his status as one of Western art’s most original and visionary figures (Huntington Library, Pasadena).

International Paper: Drawings by Emerging Artists presents the work of 22 international artists whose works push the boundaries of traditional definitions of drawing. The works on view range from the realistic to the abstract. Some artists make long scrolls, others layer pages as if creating a book on the wall. Some animate their drawing and present them as video or as computer-based works. The wide range of works are of generally high quality, and generally treat drawing as an end rather than a means to achieving an aesthetic statement. Each artist contributes something distinctive to the question, what is the present scope of drawing?

Aaron Morse, "Breaking Wave," 2002,
watercolor and pencil on paper.

While the majority here are indeed artists from outside the U.S. who will be les familiar to the local audience, the sizable contingent of Los Angeles artists is placed by virtue of the title alone within an international context--this point must be regarded as central to the curatorial intent. The Los Angeles-based artists include: Sandeep Mukherjee, Tam Van Tram, Kim McCarty, Nick Lowe, Alice Konitz and Aaron Morse (UCLA Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

Eva Carter, "Resolution,"
2002, o/c, 60 x 48".
After years of experimenting with various permutations of realism and figuration, Eva Carter found that Abstract Expressionism suited her temperament and worldview best. The canvases here prove that her instincts were sound. Strong fields of color form fascinating organic shapes that seem to collide, then melt into ephemeral voids. Carter’s instinctively free execution, large gestural brushstrokes and lyrical slashes of color culminate in a dream-like vision of luminous abandonment. This is not a forced, monochromatic rehash of what has come before, but a refreshing, even if slightly formulaic, return to a school of painting that revolutionized the art world decades ago--and perhaps has the power to do so again (Marion Meyer Contemporary Art, Orange County).

Shirley Irons explores the image of the roadside in Common Landscape. This mix of photographs and paintings depict expanses of highway, suburban desert homes and rolling hills. The juxtaposition of the painted and photographed, as well as digitally manipulated works, asserts a range of vision. Irons’ ability to fuse the real with the imagined is convincing. The artist transforms photographs into paintings that allow the hard edge of the photographic documentation to dissolve into the soft edge of the painting. The works are subtle and evocative. They depict places that anyone will recognize: they are everywhere and nowhere simultaneously (Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica).

Karen Halverson photographs trees. Her large scale color images look up, down and across. They focus on branches, stumps, and bark. They investigate the beautiful as well as the awkward in nature. A tree might appear captive, or jailed, or free fluttering in the wind before Halverson's camera. The trees, photographed from all over Southern California, are seen in different environments and landscapes that, on the whole, enable you to see this ever present subject with fresh eyes (Rose Galley, Santa Monica).