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September, 2003

Amadeo Modigliani, "Young
Woman of the People," 1918, o/c.
Separate but coincidentally related to the Pushkin exhibition, Modigliani & the Artists of Montparnasse (a district of Paris) spotlights paintings, drawings and sculptures of Amadeo Modigliani, one of the key participants in the early modernist explosions set off by the School of Paris nearly a century ago. While the exhibition, curated by Carol S. Eliel, focuses on Modigliani's innovative portraits, it also emphasizes his sculptures, which evidence the profound influence of his mentor Constantin Brancusi. Those familiar with Modigliani's exaggeratedly elongated faces, misaligned eyes and mysterious expressions will find that, even though his style is highly idiosyncratic, there is a wide variety among his subjects and the way he presents them. His overall style was also largely influenced by African and Khmer (Cambodian) art. To put the Modigliani's into its historical framework, included is a selection of key works by Mont-parnasse artists who worked with and influenced the eccentric Italian (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).

Betty Woodman has long since gained her place as a ceramic innovator. Her painterly glazes bring playful movement and associations to pots and cups. Loose formalism has long placed her within the contemporary decorative and pattern movement, and this rare local solo show is one of a series of, in fact, related exhibitions all being hosted within the Bergamot complex. Woodman goes beyond the sculptural implications of the ceramic medium, wedding it to the idiom of wall painting. The range of examples here expresses her ability to stretch the formal boundaries of her medium and to imbue it with an array of references. Yet it all looks like simple good fun (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

Betty Woodman, "June in Italy," 2001,
glazed earthenware, 39 x 29 x 9".
Photo courtesy Max Protech Gallery.

William T. Wiley, “Inside & Outside,”
2000, watercolor/ink on paper, 22 x 30”.
The playful horrorvacuui of Bay Area stalwart William T. Wiley has long stood out because it is both clever and possesses a mystifying visual clarity in spite of the general clutter. The curatorial effort here is to suggest the overall scope of Wiley’s world view over a 35-year career in a relative handful of works spread around multiple media. This might be easier to digest than a massive museum retrospective, but one has to be concerned about the choice to risk ending up with a too tenuously connected series of moments instead of a big picture of who Wiley is as an artist. But given that he’s had just one solo appearance in Southern California over the last decade, chances are that there will be plenty of revelations for an underexposed audience irregardless of their continuity (CSU Fullerton Art Gallery, Orange County).

The quality of classical calm in David Ligare’s work has always been buttressed by simple but precise structural clarity, crystalline atmosphere, and consistent paint handling. The Pacific Ocean has long played a key role as both backdrop and subject, and its presence is especially central in this recent work. The presence of singular or small groups of figures has swung back and forth to more and less specific reference to Greek mythology and post-Renaissance European antecedents. The blending of archaic references into a contemporary minimalist sensibility is as silky as the paintings themselves. All extraneous information is filtered out so as to focus attention on a clear point of interest (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, West Hollywood).

David Ligare, "Seascape," 2003, o/c, 60 x 90".

Betty Green, "The Path," mixed
media on canvas, 36 x 42".

Found objects serve the will of paint in Betty Green’s canvases. Green tends to revolve a whirlpool of visual information around a central image, and her general use of symmetry is the given that holds it all back from the brink of chaos. Bits and pieces of reproductions, antiquated frame decor, buttons, stitchery, and god knows what else get tossed into the stew, creating their own little swirls of interest before finally getting back to a formal role within the total composition. This working additively comes across as a means to arrive at a balance between abandon and content (Orlando Gallery, Valley).

The lastest Space Field mixed media works of Victor Raphael display his sustained romance with the grandeur and mystery of the cosmos. Spectral in their presence, chromatically rich, these digitally manipulated and physically altered NASA photographs delight in the unimaginable scale of their subjects. The planetary bodies, nebulae and galaxies are generally recognizable enough to allow you the fantasy that you are floating in space as a fellow traveler, but taking in phenomena that have no bearing on the limits of the physical universe. Raphael offers sensuous formal pleasures that invite you to take a break from the day to play God for awhile (L.A. Artcore Center, Downtown).

Victor Raphael, "Planet Tribeca,"
2003, chromogenic print, 42 x 50".

During World War II, the U.S. government coined the benign phrase “internment camps” to describe where Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Masumi Hayashi was born in one--a personal connection that spurred her to photograph camps throughout the United States and Canada. Although her color images accurately depict decrepit barracks and windswept fields, her approach is not straight documentary. Inspired by Michel Foucault’s “panopticon” she collages hundreds of photographs into panoramas. Foucault’s nineteenth-century prison analogy centers on the constant surveillance afforded by a guard tower’s 360-degree view. Hayashi’s “concentration camp” panoramas present a similar, but flattened out, perspective. The desolate places she captures--as sacred as any historic battlefield or burial ground--resonate with collective memory and loss (The Japanese American National Museum, Downtown).