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July 19-August 16, 2003 Absolut-L.A. International
at about sixty venues throughout Los Angeles

Editor’s Note--Galleries participating in the 2003 L.A. International receive the following notation throughout the Gallery Listings: Participating gallery, Absolut/L.A. International, 6th Biennial Art Invitational.

The sixth version of the Absolut/L.A. International absolutely enlivens the Summer. This is a natural for Southern California; in contrast to most of the rest of the country, where folks just want to get outta town. A lot of those travelers want to end up here (if that’s you, welcome!), so this free-for-all influx of art from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa helps assure that visitors get something other than a rehash of the now ended season. And the undertow effect of the International in the sundrenched Southland is that even numerous non-participating galleries take the opportunity to mount shows that could hang a ten any time of the year. Setting aside the universities, which necessarily are on break, hardly anyone on the coast coasts. The following coverage offers a representative cross section of artists both familiar (Hans Burkhardt.
Raul Cordero) and as yet unfamiliar (Bjarni Sigurbjörnsson, Teun Hocks) around these parts. Party animals and culture vultures will not want to miss the rolling series of group openings starting July 9th (see the Calendar of Openings), and a schedule of special events are planned, though not available at press time. Call (310) 453-0909 for further information and a full schedule.
-Bill Lasarow

The following takes cover a representative sampling of this Summer's L.A. International exhibitions. You might also look over these lengthier Previews of L.A. International shows:
Hans Burkhardt
Dalit Tayar
Bjarni Sigurbjörnsson

The following short takes were prepared by Marlena Donohue and Bill Lasarow

Riera i Arago, "Tres Mares (Three
Seas)," 1996, bronze, single
casting, 65 x 66 3/4 x 24 1/2".
Catalonian artist Riera i Arago’s sculptures make a spare first impression. Linear and airy, they seem to exist in order to prop up a single eccentric take on a familiar object. But there is a sleight-of-hand that takes place. It is as though a remote tribesman were making his own use of an industrially fabricated product found lying about, however directed by sly intent rather than amusing naiveté. The fun of imagining just what the tribesman might be thinking joins nicely with the urbane formalism of Arago’s aesthetic sensibility. An encounter that begins with awkwardness and confusion in Three Seas, for example, with its trio of platters--bird baths as oceans--and its jaunty, rather bovine cap, recovers from the initial impression precisely because the image is visually weighty and conceptually playful (Tasende Gallery, West Hollywood).

The calligraphic touch of brush and ink to rice paper in Minjung Kim’s painting reeks of tradition, but tradition here nicely brackets a large, meaty helping of astute contemporary practice. The rough circles that populate a strong vertical space, which immediately call to mind traditional hanging scrolls, could be bubbles or flower petals floating in random clusters with no particular focal point. The works are deliberately scortched, but in restrained fashion so as to integrate rather than violate a composition. The tone is calming and conciliatory. While lacking any jolt at their aesthetic foundation, they impress as an example of absorption and integration (Leslie Sacks Fine Art, West Los Angeles).

Minjung Kim, "Void in Fullness," 2002, burned and layered rice paper with ink wash, 17 7/8 x 18 1/8".

Robert Fawcett, "In the Chair,"
2001, 12 x 10", oil on copper panel.
Robert Fawcett’s diminutive figures and portraits are consistent with the much ballyhooed realism in British art over the last decade. However, he appears to operate at a respectful aesthetic distance from the Damien Hirsts of the world, assuming more the demeanor of an Elizabethan court miniaturist who happened across (and was blown away by) Lucien Freud and Edward Hopper. Figures’ unflattering flaws jump out against unadorned interior settings and pale northern light. But unlike the in-your-face confrontation favored by more theatrical peers, Fawcett appears to prefer maintaining a distance so as to allow his subjects to control (but not select) how they project themselves.
The moments he chooses to permanently freeze are all about self-absorption: a sitter leans dramatically forward in his chair, a standing women gazes down, a bather stands turned and facing away from us. The meticulous technique can stiffen up awkwardly at times, but may grow into a warmer naturalism as the artist continues to mature. If so Fawcett could evolve into a voice that strongly expresses a deeply convincing humanism (Terrence Rogers Fine Art, Santa Monica).

Rosamund Purcell installs Two Rooms: One part of the installation is the interior of her studio, the other a simulation of the 17th Century cabinet created by Olaus Worm. An avid collector of junk and visual artifacts, Purcell has relocated parts of her studio to the Museum. Flattened sheets of rusting metal are attached to one wall, on another are a series of vitrines that contain eroded books and sculptures created by assembling found materials. What is significant about this is the relationship between the recreation of Purcell’s 21st Century studio and her three-dimensional interpretation of Worm’s original cabinet of curiosities. Purcell studied the antique etching and either found or fabricated the artifacts presented in Worm’s depiction of the space. A room was created to simulate the view depicted in the illustration, complete with artifacts. Purcell creates a conundrum--is this the way it was? Are these the original objects? If so, how in the world did she track down the actual artifacts? Original or fabricated, these are sculptures that function as mini-museum (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).

Raul Cordero, "The Rolling Landmark,"
Las Vegas-style sign in video documentary.
Cuban Raul Cordero shows a remarkable facility for moving from virtuoso painting (as in a macabre, Goya-esque three-part scene of a head being gradually submerged in water with a title referring to the lot of the mid career artist) to lean conceptual media: installation, art action, video, performance, community based art (he DJ'ed an art event). Unlike Duchamp who first gave up painting for chess and idea works, and Baldessari who famously set paintings on fire to clean the slate, Cordero has since the late 1990s worked effectively in either voice. His video and installation works allow Cordero to take on, in non literal ways, issues of re-presentation, of the tyranny of realism in a world where meaning is fully fluid, of gender and sexuality in more open ended, more experiential, often more satisfying ways.
He took on the hegemony of the Renaissance picture window in works that combined perfect one point landscapes imbedded with photography; another community action involved video taped kissing "try outs" at a San Francisco art school for inclusion in a work dealing with the politics of intimacy. In La Mujer Perfecta, Cordero described his perfect woman as his descriptions were sketched and projected onto video monitors to look for the passerby like mug shots, or a visual little black book by the quintessential Latin lover. To date he has been successful in keeping the rigor--even in the midst of macho humor, even through the unavoidable poignant biographic reading of Cuban diaspora in many of his endeavors. We will see if this continues. He takes on ideas of physical displacement, the line between low and high culture, the space of life interjecting itself into the space of art via a performance that involves hauling on a small trailer a common, tacky street sign clearly associated with the particular city in which he is "showing," or dragging, as the case may be. It's a work in progress; he has done this in other cities, with a gaudy sign bearing the words Las Vegas as his last endeavor. It should be interesting to watch Cordero hit L.A. streets during the International towing some enormous kitschified city emblem suggesting, with tongue to cheek, a martyr for art bearing the cross of post modern pluralism that put an end to faith in pure form (Iturralde Gallery, West Hollywood).

Best known for architectural black and white drawings on paper, as well as paint altered photos also dealing with ideas of interior space, German artist Christine Rusche, who now works in Rotterdam, shows a series of installation format drawings that reconstruct, display and require engagement with the gallery space. She makes her subject not just shape and space, but the physical, experiential and semiotic components of enclosures that specifically house art work. In a nice conceptual paradox, she uses her signature fine art style to analyze and indeed deconstruct (an overused by apt word here) the very white cube that defines the boundaries of much art practice and art viewing.

Christine Rusche, No title,
2002, pen on paper, 108 x 70 cm.

The strategy is that that viewers ideally interact with and circumambulate the drawings and the actual space they re-present in some reciprocally illuminating manner. One never knows how this will play, but the artist's drawings and photos are very elegant in their own right. Adding the aims of using one's process to demystify viewing tactics and calling attention to the way in which all spaces--particularly galleries--devise a history (in this case art history), construct meaning and direct experience could only enrich Rusche's proven pictorial skills (Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica).

Blex Bolex, "Ubu Ru," 1995.
Ever the maverick, always reporting from the edge, Track 16 sticks to this with a perfect International show of works published by the equally irreverent counter culture publishing house, Le Dernier Cri (The Last Cry). Artists from France, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, the Philippines and the U.S. who have contributed to the over 100 editions in whose pages one finds everything from the comical to the salacious, from prints to illustrations, from cartooning to digital spoofs. These will be on display, organized from the publisher's point of origin--fittingly an abandoned maternity hospital in the dark little port town of Marseilles, France. A selection of 145 prints, paints, drawings and animated films will be on view. To give you a sense for the range of their production, locally exhibited Manuel Ocampo form the Philippines is a Dernier Cri contributor on view, as are the less well known round these parts French satirists Caroline Sury and Pakito Bolino, founders of Le Dernier Cri (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).