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May, 2004

Peter Wegner, "Architecture of
the Air", 2004, wall installation.
Using the gallery wall as his canvas, Peter Wegner explores space, color, language, and numbers. Architecture of the Air is a three part painting that appears to be an open lattice, a system of open spaces and an uneven grid of rectangles. Painted on top of each section of the lattice is a color, number, or letter, sometimes right reading, sometimes reversed. The lattice is repeated three times, suggesting a beginning, a middle and an end. While each part appears to be the same, in fact the pattern is quite varied.
Seductive, compelling, and open ended, Architecture of the Air resists settling on a tangible identity. At the back of the gallery sheets of stacked red paper fill in an arched doorway. This wall of red functions as barrier, filling the passageway. The ends of the paper form a pattern of wavy lines that undulate up the wall. In these new works he allows for a welcome element of chance. The more time you spend with them the richer they become (Griffin Contemporary Art, Santa Monica).

Frank Romero's new paintings, Art in the City, extend his signature style of freewheeling figurative depictions of urban life. The colorful and highly stylized compositions careen around the canvases looking for a moment of respite in the fervor of constant metropolitan agitation. The viewer, on the other hand, stands literally above and beyond the fray, enjoying the freeze framed medley (Patricia Correia Gallery, Santa Monica).

Frank Romero, "California Plaza,"
2001, o/c, 72 x 60".

Kirstine Roepstorff, installation
view of "Wall D" and "Dark".
Kirstine Roepstorff's untreated luan walls section the gallery up into a trapezoidal labyrinth housing poster-like flat works, each exploring some mythological realm where abundant flora and fauna seem to have the upper hand. Rendered in stark photocopier black and white these flat works are occasionally adorned with sparkles or beads, but by and large the viewer is forced to decipher the busy surfaces, looking for the nexus between the lone combating figure and the surrounding worldscape (Peres Projects, Downtown).

Paintings by Hope Atherton play off of the legendary dark paintings and etchings of Goya with a deftness of hand and a crystalline painterly beauty that is quite notable. The Goya-esque triad of dark trolls, uncanny animals and looming landscapes are rendered in fluid transparent colors which belie the intent of the original narrative, giving them a new and beguiling afterlife (Patrick Painter, Santa Monica).

Hope Atherton, "Infectous Folly," 2002,
charcoal/ink/acrylic on paper, 60 x 40".

Tony Berlant, "Divina Muse," 2002,
found and fabricated printed tin collaged
on plywood with steel brads, 78 x 48".
Is it something in the air? The fact that we are scarring the earth with such ferocity right now as we wage both science and war? Whatever it is, everyone seems to be addressing landscape, adopting their particular signature to the genre. Aptly named New Terrain, Tony Berlant's recent work uses his decades old painted metal collage technique to produce fetching images of what appears to be lilac and umber desert terrain. The works are large--up to six feet--and the wood, shiny metal and steel brad format gives the great outdoors, as per Berlant, a super tactile and muscular vibe (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

Mitra Fabian, "Invisible,"
2004, mixed media.

Anne Trodson, "Grandma's
Shampoo," 2004, photograph.

Mitra Fabian's Surface Treatment and Anne Trondson's You Sure Caked It On Thick Tonight share an interest in exploring the condition of the female as social construct. Fabian's "clothing" ranges from a hair/felt cone festooned with numerous circular apertures, to a sheer translucent tape gown embedded with typewritten text. The delicate balance she attains in this modified attire shifts disconcertingly between the grotesque and the elegant. Trondson's photo and video work operate a more strident conflict between the necessity and excess of making one's self up. Almost comical, the artist's head continuously pops up in various states of cosmetic disarray. The drive displayed in the antic video application of lipstick heads her straight through hilarity to discomfort (Gallery 825 Annex, Santa Monica).

This survey of work by the 1960s/70s avant garde Italian architecture group Superstudio comprises mostly 2 dimensional work about the future of architecture as imagined by this collective from Florence. Their negative disarticulation of architectural standards generate quite a few surreal and oddly sweet utopian images. The large floor standing sculpture Histogram, with its modular square Formica progression of forms, presides over the space like some frozen testament to the stalemate in which Superstudio's Life Without Objects seems to head (Art Center College, Pasadena).

Superstudio, installation view.

Friedrich Kunath, "About Souffle,"
2004, installation view, DVD,
color, sound, 32.50 minutes.
Friedrich Kunath, a German born artist, presents his work for the first time in the United States. Kunath employs many media, making drawings, paintings, photographs, as well as video works. It all seems at first glance familiar (perhaps akin to the works of Raymond Pettibon), yet Kunath has a language all his own. The painted pieces are poetic, amusing yet not ironic in any way as they ponder issues of love, hope, longing, and despair. The centerpiece of the exhibition is an arrangement of nine video monitors in which the artists physically jumps from location to location traveling around the globe. The pop tune that accompanies the work functions as a hook, and the absurdity of the activity--the artist jumping in and out of the frame--keeps you watching (Blum & Poe, Culver City).

Barbara Kasten has been making abstract images with shadows and light for a number of years. In her new body of work, entitled Shadow Tracings she turns to a more representational subject matter. The new photographs juxtapose artifacts and images of Egypt. In these works Kasten utilized the collection of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology in Memphis, TN, juxtaposing the past with the present, making references to life and to death. On view are large scale color photographs and image based screens. In the screens, an Egyptian funerary artifact is placed front and center against a 19th century image of the pyramids by Francis Frith.

Barbara Kasten, "Purple Wings,"
2002-04, archival inkjet print, 30 x 22".
The artifact is lit in such a way as to cast a huge shadow on the pyramids. These images, at first recognizable, offer new interpretations of a place and time. In addition to the screens, Kasten has also created a series of images in which the artifacts are depicted in soft focus, casting haunting shadows against a colorful ground (Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica).

No matter how many times we see Alison Van Pelt's oil on paper paintings of phantom faces and oddly erotic bodies, we do not tire of them. That is because Van Pelt has mastered laying down densely worked painted marks that ape the look and feel of fading charcoal images, so fragile and ephemeral they look as if the wind is about to blow them away. We strain to find and hold evaporating images that are ever fleeting and somehow always slightly sexy (Chac-Mool Gallery, West Hollywood).

Alison Van Pelt, "Britney," 2004, oil
and graphite on canvas, 72 x 60"

There is simply no one better at trompe l'oeil illusionism than Ron Rizk. He has shown a tenacious dedication to the format of intimately scaled wood panels, painted with such precision that they look like a window, ledge or stage holding complex, almost surreal combinations of found objects, eccentric curios, and other strange discards collected by this itinerant junk store hoarder. It is hard not to be impressed and sucked in by Rizk’s technical skills alone. But our attention is held past the "ohhh" response because he can render inanimate debris--old wood and crumpled paper--so that it becomes, in paint, a fantastic flying fish straight out of our wildest dreams (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, West Hollywood).

Ron Rizk, "Water," 2003,
oil on panel, 14 x 18".

Michiko Yao, "Untitled (Three Girls)",
2004, acrylic painting.
Michiko Yao's Fill It In is one of several concurrent shows here with "white" as a common thread. Yao asserts the individuality of visual perception in three works, all drawn in paint-by-numbers style using cyan-colored acrylic paint on white. The subjects are derived from nature: a near life-sized forest of trees painted directly on the gallery walls, a large canvas depicting three children exploring a wooded landscape, and a group of nineteen small canvases, each featuring a living creature: an insect, mollusk, or crustacean. These are not a parody of those once popular paint-by-numbers kits. To wit, take a close look at Untitled (Three Girls). The children stand in front of a train station's concrete pillars. One girl is bent over. She isn't picking a woodland flower, as one would have naturally thought, but a piece of concrete pavement (Gallery 825, West Hollywood).

Classical antiquity provides a fig leaf of authority when Scott Siedman is really conveying in his pictures that authority be damned. There is a polemic, and a pretty interesting one, running at the mouth throughout his work, but it is particularly nice to see how his technical and pictorial, well, authority has been growing. Contemporaries such as David Ligare and Sandow Birk have shown the way, and it is possible that Siedman will earn his place within an elite circle. Our hope is that he keep it pungent (Circle Elephant Art, Silver Lake).

Scott Siedman, "Intelligence,"
2004, oil on canvas, 20 x 24".

Meg Cranston, "Split Compliment," 2004, papier
maché/handmade paper/wire, 135 x 48 x 60".
The resurrection of the 1920’s Bijou theater into a exhibition space for contemporary art seems particularly appropriate for the staging of L.A. Woman, a gathering of five disparate artists, each capable of starring in her own production. Lisa Adams and Jill Giegerich take over the main gallery. They rely on an oversized collaborative book to bridge the gap between Giegerich’s compelling, thought provoking wall hung sculptural works, with their studied control of texture, form and meaning, and Adams’ clever, more numerous, lighter, brighter and slicker paintings. Meg Cranston shifts away from her piñata series to a more subtle suspension of handmade paper portrait heads that are as stunning as Nefertiti’s bust. Becky Guttin’s glittery embellishments of natural plant forms respond beautifully to the intimate scale of the gallery’s second story viewing room. Kim McCarty’s painted waif’s drip with loss and vulnerability, seducing ghosts of Bijou damsels in distress (Gallery C, South Bay).