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October, 2003

Marcelo Pombo, “Horizonte con equipo
de audio,” 2003, enamel on panel, 40 x 60”.
The fantasy worlds that Argentinean artist Marcelo Pombo paints are whimsical landscapes in which the abstract and the representational merge. These brightly colored, highly textured and detailed works combine geometric forms with natural elements, like trees and planets. Pombo’s paintings are made up of repeated elements: a pattern of overlapping circles and rectangles. Out of these simple forms emerge deep and wonderful spaces. By limiting himself to a vocabulary of colorful shapes Pombo transforms the flat surface into a dynamic environment. A profusion of colored dots and sketchy lines make up the foreground objects.
The backgrounds are broad horizontal washes of contrasting colors. Pombo juxtaposes ideas associated with science fiction and the recorded beauty of the undersea world. These are among the tastiest images he has yet produced (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

In Night Migration, Sarah Perry fuses found and formed objects into magical and unsettling sculptures. Bleached white bones act as both the frame and support. In the title work this lattice of animal ribs) have been fastened with twine. These sit within a steel oval that is suspended from the ceiling. Perched upon the bones are small bird-like creatures. These bone putty creatures have bird-like forms and beaks. Perry fashions human faces on their bellies and uses actual lizard hands as feet. Such exquisitely crafted sidereal creations move from the metaphysical to the humorous with roots in the tradition of the memento mori (little reminders of death's immutable presence). Independent and self propelled, Perry's objects erupt forcefully on your perception, providing ample reason to pause and reflect on your exact position in space and a lifetime (Hunsaker/Schlesinger Fine Art, Santa Monica).

Sarah Perry, "Night Vision," 2003,
votive box/bird parts/cat hair/modeling
paste/acrylic paint, 15 x 12 x 9".

Tao Urban, "Source," installation
view, 2003, mixed media.
Tao Urban's Source, resource [waterbar] is essentially an installation of multiple objects that all address one issue: how nature is transformed in our consumer culture. Urban's trips to the wild, to find and bottle water at the source, are served up in elaborate finish fetish water coolers that take the shape of the region where they were found. Playful and compelling, these objects reflect consumer culture's tendency to commodify, in patently ridiculous ways, our yearning for the natural (Acuna-Hansen Gallery, Downtown).

The photographs that Lucy Chen takes of her shadow and the traces she finds of herself abroad in the world amount to a gray-toned romantic interlude. Transient is comprised of small, black and white photographs in which shadows are culled from grassy fields, areas of sparsely disseminated leaves, on the surface of watery bodies, and in traces left on sandy beaches (LMan Gallery, Downtown).

Lucy Chen, "Shadow #9," 2003, photograph.

Maurizio Cattelan, "Charlie," mixed media.

There’s no need to strap on your shin guards. It’s not likely that anyone’s ever been run into by Charlie, Maurizio Cattelan’s low slung tricycle riding robot tot. The museum employees who manipulate the moving sculpture by remote control are as hip to avoiding injury insurance claims as they are dexterous and good humored. But those viewers who missed the fun of Charlie’s debut at the opening of the Venice Biennale, or aren’t any more expecting an encounter with Cattelan than the pope was when the artist felled his life-sized sculpted counterpart with a meteorite (La Nono Ora, 1999),

might be startled out of their apathy when Cattelan’s young chap comes straight at them, head cocked, from around a corner in the museum gallery. The museum release puts it superbly: “Cattelan has consistently toyed with the myth of the museum as a solemn place for contemplation.” Go and lighten up! (Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

The late Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzú is spiritually pegged, in his current catalogue, as a Renaissance artist, but the real heart of his aesthetic lies somewhat later with the Mannerist period. What yanks all the beauty into emotional high relief is a sense of the odd, the elegantly eccentric and quirkily erotic. The works here are tiny bronze treasures that take up a huge poetic space; like the image of an overstuffed cleric, or the image of a harlequin-esque yet stunning Renaissance female figure, called Striptease, who gathers up fold upon fold of billowing drapery to coyishly expose spindly legs. It is the absence of hard edges in his draftsmanship--clearly based on an unassailable classical knowledge of the human body--that gives this art its sensuous, offbeat look (Tasende Gallery, West Hollywood).

Giacomo Manzú, "Striptease,"
1981, bronze, 41 1/4" high.

Katie Pratt, no title given, 2003, o/c.
Katie Pratt’s medium and small sized oil paintings are rife with the pleasures of abstraction. Little dots and dashes careen around the surface encountering slavering globs of oil paint left to slide towards the bottom edge of the composition. Minute striped accretions resembling string emerge from the painted depth like unaccountable spores. Meanwhile, the palette goes from the wistfully serene lightness of Spin-Edge and Wistar's Common to the decisively robust hot color field of Rot-Weiler in this thoroughly enjoyable display of painting prowess (Kontainer Gallery, West Hollywood).

Michael Flomen, a photographer from Canada having his first solo show in Los Angeles, creates evocative black and white landscape photographs that appear to be from other worlds. Flomen’s large format images are abstract explorations of light and shadow--images of nature that are printed in such a way as they become recognizable. While in reality an image might be a picture of snow, it’s dark and ominous tones evoke unrecognizable locations. Although they depict uninhabited places they express a sense of wonder. You’ll want to embark on a journey to this place; a place where light and darkness follow their own rules, a place that only exists through photography.

Michael Flomen, "Starfield," 2003,
black and white photograph.
The images work together to create a collective impression of a place that seems real and faraway simultaneously (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Ai Yamaguchi, "Sukutoko" installation
view, 2003, mixed media.
The gallery walls directly painted in mural fashion by Ai Yamaguchi present scenes of young, blank-faced, sexless women floating through a series of activities that range from food preparation to washing in an updated version of what you might find in Japanese woodcuts from the "floating world.” Alternating between being unsettling and serene, Yamaguchi's epic sized mural presents a hybrid of traditional and contemporary interests. The scroll located in the small project room is especially beautiful (Roberts & Tilton Gallery, West Hollywood).

The many diminutive paintings (not over five inches) that comprise Jim Torok's exhibition all feature the same subject matter: the artist himself. Completed with a 17th Century Flemish bent for painterly precision, the artist doesn't really change expression throughout, only clothing. Torok's image gazes out at the viewer with tranquillity and self possession, as if to challenge a viewer's hypothetical request for clarification about his obsessive practice (Daniel Weinberg Gallery, West Hollywood).

Jim Torok, "Double Self Portrait,"
2002, oil on polymer resin, two
panels, each 2 1/2 x 2 x 1 1/8".

Ernesto Pujol, "Velodrome", 2001/02,
chromogenic print, ed. 7, 39 x 59
Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based Ernesto Pujol was a Roman Catholic monk before he was an artist, and has for the last decade made notably diverse work: installations about the Cuban Diaspora, large scale self portraits with the artist in monk's frocks addressing devotion and identity, sumptuous color images of isolated feet/shoes dealing with sensuality and the body. His current American Fields are color photos of such subjects as manicured corn fields and stepped velodromes presented in an installation format that activates viewing space, questions American myths of freedom, and taps into the ongoing efforts of humanity to control/organize ideas, passions, and nature (Iturralde Gallery, West Hollywood).

Photographer Jerry Burchfield continues to document his travels in the Amazon basin with an engaging exhibition of Lumen prints (a camera-less technique involving the placement of plant specimens and fossil-like images directly onto photographic paper under sunlight for periods ranging between 30 minutes and four hours). The resulting works are reminiscent in their delicacy and soft detail of early camera-obscura photography. Burchfield has combined environmental activism and artistry into a profound body of work. For several decades now Burchfield has been exposing ecological wonders to wide audiences, raising environmental awareness in a fashion that elevates aesthetics above stridency (UCR/California Museum of Photography, Riverside).

Jerry Burchfield, "Bixia orellana, Lip
Stick Tree," 2002, Lumen print.

Sandra Yagi, "Garden of Eden,"
2003, oil on panel, 30 x 30".
With the paintings included in Saints & Sinners, Sandra Yagi employs the iconography of classic religious painting so as to make it confront the contemporary world. Working with a finely detailed style and expert realism, Yagi invests familiar themes with unsettling new elements that overturn the historically received contexts and thus confounding expectations. The Holy Mother, for example, is seen blithely cradling a mutant baby’s skeleton against an idyllic landscape. In a deft stylistic facsimile, the Garden of Eden is shown as a locus of sexual ambivalence. An armored Saint Joan is delicately painted on a rocky crag bearing Elvis the King down upon the stone with her foot. Yagi’s visual inquiries are understated but powerful subversions of the social order that the classic works implied (Circle Elephant Art, Silver Lake).

Astrid Preston's hieroglyphic landscapes balance the power of reiterated symbolism against the subtleties of a nuanced naturalism, particularly in terms of its color. Smaller sections of larger landscapes glow with a soft autumn light or are infused with a white/blue wintry sheen. Along with Preston’s characteristic masses of bushy yellows and greens, delicate tree branches are drawn up into an enveloping whiteness.

Mark Swope's black and white photographs of Los Angeles are the stuff that myths are hewn from.

Astrid Preston, "Sepulveda
Pass," 2003, o/c, 64 x 64".
Muscular steel frameworks that hold up the signage on various buildings around the city are highlighted by the depth of the chiaroscuro that Swope coaxes out of the evening light. Images of the L.A. River and the bridges spanning it verge on the majestic, graffiti and all (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

Andres Lutz and Anders Guggisberg are Swiss artists who collaborate in making room-sized installations. Formally reminiscent of the installations of Jason Rhodes and Thomas Hirshhorn, they utilize found and simulated objects to create surreal, extraordinary environments. The subject of Lutz/Gussisberg’s current installation is the office and technology. Their life-size sculptures use old dilapidated desks, second hand books, as well as computers made from wood to explore where low tech and high collide. The walls have been covered with large murals which depict images of weaving tubes and wires. While Lutz/Gussisberg’s work could be classified as scatter art, the aesthetic tone is one of respect rather than disdain (Anna Helwing Gallery, West Side).