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July/August, 2004

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van
Bruggen, "Blueberry Pie a la Mode,
Sliding Down a Hill," 1996, charcoal
and pastel on paper, 39 1/2 x 30 1/8".
Seventy-five drawings by seminal Pop artist Claes Oldenburg, along with some done in collaboration with his wife Coosje van Bruggen, track the artist’s large and very public vision. The role played by drawing, as seen here, is to capture ideas and try out fantastic plans for enormous "soft sculpture" and monumental works. There is no question that this maker of the common draws like the dickens--in pencil, ink, crayon, watercolor, pastel. The exhibition opens with his digestible Pop Art work of the ‘60s, moves to works that came out of his marriage and projects with van Bruggen in the 1970s, and ends with a somewhat more remote placement dedicated to the last decade (since we know the ‘60s so well, we might have liked to see the order reversed).
To see the visual thinking behind and drawings for such signature projects and street installations as the New York Giant Teddy Bear forces us to look back at a great paradigm shift, which four decades on seems oddly quaint. You also realize that this zany Popist was really a super cerebral Swede. The Pop humor, and its demand that high art meet low life starts to feel more than a bit programmatic in his hands (Pepperdine University, Malibu).

We know him as our seminal ceramic sculptor, but here Peter Voulkos is represented with sixteen works on paper, including lovely dry point etchings and monotypes. Mostly in a sooty and moody monochrome palette, mostly untitled, and filled with squiggles that coalesce into the suggestions of bodies or vessels, the works as a whole share that Voulkos touch of something slightly dark and slightly playful. Apparently, printmaking in 2D interested him over the decades, though much less shown. There is a relationship between the clay and these works in that the incised lines on his clay appear in these etchings as fluid, scratchy or frothy tendrils of line.

Peter Voulkos, "Untitled," 2000,
drypoint etching, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2".
The variety of line, the emotional quality he is able to get from it is surprising for someone who we know as a sculptor. When you look closely at the monotypes, you see smudges and finger prints that most surely relate these works to the free form and process concerns of his clay. Handsome stuff (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

Richard Deacon, "Beyond the Clouds,"
2002, ceramic, 62 x 46 1/2 x 41 3/8".
Richard Deacon uses a variety of materials such as stainless steel, wood and ceramic to create mostly abstract shapes whose titles give you a sense of where he is going with this show, to wit: Infinity, and Beyond the Clouds. Content comes from the relationships that form creates with those attributes intrinsic to material itself--mass and volume, interior and exterior, surface and edge. These open ended shapes appear to emanate from some organic rhythm within the work (L.A. Louver, Venice).

Yves Klein: Air Architecture deals with this pioneering, if at times schmaltzy, conceptual artist's architectural projects and theories. Drawings, texts, photography, sculpture and film from the Yves Klein Archive reconstruct how Klein proposed creating utopian climate-controlled environments in which people could roam naked (what else?) in contact with the earth, sky and one another. There are compressed air "constructed" transparent walls, roof, even furniture. Of all the projects this art showman hyped, this exhibit shows us a seriously conceptual, if ever naughty side of Klein (MAK Center, West Hollywood).

Yves Klein, "Leap Into the
Void", 1960, photograph.

Eve Arnold, "Malcolm X,"
1960, photograph.
Born in 1913, Eve Arnold came of age as an artist in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, those pivotal times when movie vamps sang to presidents and a reformed prisoner took the name of Malcolm X during the Civil Rights struggles. Arnold shot stunning images of these times that include subjects like an ingenue Monroe Monroe rehearsing her lines on the set of a movie; a somber Malcolm X in his characteristic hat caught in profile; plus anonymous scenes of people all over the world simply being human (Apex Fine Art, West Hollywood).

Works on paper here are drawn from the estates of two friends who worked together in Paris and subsequently became mainstays of an early African American vision born--tellingly--mostly outside the U.S. during the 1940s and ‘50s. We know Romare Bearden's flat, boldly colored works of cut-out collage shapes on board that describe a world of the past (quaint log cabins), labor (sober black millhands in hard hats) and the respite of family life (feasts that include hints of masks and ancestors). Less well known are his friend Herbert Gentry's loosely expressionist scenes capturing, with a more vital kind of mark, similar scenes of African American life and culture (Alitash Kebede Gallery, West Hollywood).

Romare Bearden, "Longings," 1984,
collage on masonite, 12 x 18".

Hannelore Baron, "Untitled (C83 102),"
1983, mixed media collage, 8 1/8 x 8 1/2".
Concurrent exhibitions of collages and box constructions by Hannelore Baron once more bring back an artist whose work has gradually gained statue only following her death nearly twenty years ago. As a Holocaust survivor, a cancer patient, and a fully self taught artist, Baron infused her multi media works with a combination of pain and winsome wonder. Her personal iconography--used over and over, much like Paul Klee--included human figures, birds, patterns, and hieroglyphics. The approximately 50 works at Silverman and the more complete survey in Long Beach include intimate collages and boxes, the artist’s signature works, that are sad and lyrical at once. In Untitled C83 tattered edges, rubbed paper and fragments of corrugated surface communicate the quiet horror of confinement, as well as the resilience of the human spirit.
Always contending through her art with depression and her identity as a survivor, Baron also drew from sources far flung as American Indian, African, and Tantric art, Persian miniatures, and illuminated pages of the Koran. The works are shown with personal archival material to round out these profound and poignant displays (Manny Silverman Gallery, West Hollywood; CSU Long Beach, Long Beach).

Ant Farm was a collective founded in 1968 by Doug Michaels and Chip Lord to create "underground architecture." Rather than approach art in the conventional manner of discreet aesthetic objects, Michaels and Lord staged actions, created pamphlets, made videos that linked politics, culture and the environment. This retrospective presents ephemera and documentation of the group’s projects from 1968-1978. While Ant Farm is best know for 1974’s Cadillac Ranch installation in Amarillo, Texas, this show presents proof positive that other projects were equally interesting. Although Ant Farm disbanded in 1978 when a studio fire destroyed much of their work, the influence of these projects have remained a force (Santa Monica Museum, Santa Monica).

Ant Farm (Chip Lord, Doug Michels, Hudson
Marquez), "Cadillac Ranch," 1974, mixed media
site-specific installation in Amerillo, Texas.

Howard Warshaw, "Composition
of Crumpled Paper," watercolor
and ink on paper, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2".
Along with Rico Lebrun, William Brice and a handful of others, Howard Warshaw brought consummate draftsmanship to a modernist aesthetic orientation in Southern California half a century ago. The early and mid-career works here display the combined influence of the European Baroque and Cubist styles on Warshaw’s fluid and sensual execution. The work has a dated look to us now, but it would be a mistake to overlook either its inherent power or the important steps it pioneered in the development of artistic thinking in Southern California (Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara).

Richard Amend, "Repeat Landscape
#1," 2003, oil on paper.

Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend, "A Man's Chair," 2003,
kiln-fired glass and mixed media on wood panels.

Film industry art director Richard Amend’s neo-pointillist landscapes are like looking at classic New York school drip painting through a lens filter. The colors are as non-naturalistic as late 19th century Symbolist painting, suggesting a revisiting of historical antecedents from the perspective of the technological present. Amend’s wife Susan Stinsmuehlen-Amend essentially does paintings on glass, often using shallow relief and cast shadow to enliven them in ways painting on canvas cannot offer. She loves to pull imagery off of lots of mental shelves to come up with combinations you can’t pin down (Carnegie Museum, Ventura County).

Pae White’s lobby installation is a welcome departure from the mural paintings that have occupied this space in the recent past. White has painted the walls a deep blue, but her project was to assemble thousands of little paper cutouts resembling eyes, thread them into vertical mobiles, and suspend them from the ceiling. They float in the space like a field of underwater kelp, drawing you in to examine each individual element, each of which is a self-contained color study. The myriad of pieces taken together create a cacophony of moving parts. Groupings are located in various locations throughout the lobby area.

Pae White, "Oroscopo,"
2004, paper and thread.
Some hang from the ceiling at the base of the stairs, while others are more prominent disruptions in the central space. As with White's past work, these sculptures/mobiles are seductively beautiful and, in spite of their repetitive simplicity, quite dynamic (UCLA Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

James Siena, "1-1024," 2004, enamel
on aluminum, 29 1/16 x 22 11/16".
Photo courtesy Anthony Cunha.
James Siena’s doodle-like paintings and drawings are complex studies in line and form. These elegant yet modestly sized abstract works are dizzying arrays of interlaced patterns. What at first glance appears to be random gestures are in fact precise markings. The works push the boundaries of their surface and are often comprised of concentric rectangles or interlocking grids that are infinitely repeated. Siena’s colors range from subtle earth tones to vibrantly contrasting colors. The work dates from 1990 to the present, revealing the rich depth of Siena’s oeuvre (Daniel Weinberg Gallery, West Hollywood).

Adam Wolpert, "Silent Circle #104,"
2004, oil on board, 38 x 42".

William Smith, "Moon--Moonlight," 2003, oil
on bookpages on linen on panel, 18 x 24".

Adam Wolpert’s small panels may stand alone or are grouped into otherwise discreet imagery. The size may be diminutive, but the quantity of painterly incident is significant. The se- quencing sparks a search for formal and intellectual relationships, though among the literally hundreds of images things can both come together and unglue. Not quite so small are William Smith’s seemingly 18th century landscapes painted on old book pages. Fragments of these pages remain as an integral part of the completed image, as though to link the archaic verbal and visual languages and beam them to our new and strange land (Jan Baum Gallery, West Hollywood).

Light Fictions are paintings of interior spaces that skillfully depict how light hits a wall or illuminates the corner of a room. Patty Oleon begins by photographing her subject, but instead of merely copying, she reinvents these lush, mysterious spaces from what appear to be digitally manipulated intersections of light and form. The works are steeped in left handed nods to Art History: Bruneleschi and the Renaissance are alive and well in Vanishing Point, an interior that recedes quickly at dead center; and Dining Room, bathed in a blue glow and sporting an ornate chandelier, looks like a Rococo setting Madam de Pompidour would have loved (Hunsaker/Schlesinger Gallery, Santa Monica).

Patty Oleon, "Dining Room,"
2003, oil on panel, 44 x 32".

Judith Barry, "Imagination, Dead Imagine," 1991,
five channel, video/sound projection in mirrored
wood cube, 5 CRT projectors, synchronizer,
5 DVD players, stereo amp, set of stereo
speakers, 114 1/2 x 96 x 96".
Judith Barry’s unsettling installation is a multi-projector work that can be viewed from all angles. Centered in the darkened gallery space is a large cube. Each side of the cube displays a projection of part of a woman’s head. One view is the front, two views are the sides, another view is the back. At first the woman appears static; there is nothing happening. Then all of a sudden a dark liquid pours in from nowhere, covering her face. This display is both beautiful and horrible. After a short while the woman’s face morphs back to where the piece began. In the second room viewers are confronted with what seems like a random pile of plastic centered in the middle of the space.
Your movements arouse it to move. Plastic parts blow in the wind, emanating from the blob, while four projections play an animated text on the wall. The text discusses what is beyond language, thought and reason. This can be read at your leisure in the back room, where numerous studies for the work are on display (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).

When you note the title of this group exhibition, Monumental Landscapes, images of grandeur and distance by major photographers are readily evoked. Ansel Adams and, to a lesser degree, Robert Glenn Ketchum are the headliners, joined by Bruce Barnbaum, Debra Bloomfield, Pat & Rosemarie Keough and Stephen Johnson. The photographs generally deliver the goods with images of the (mainly) American landscape that respond to iconic features, abstract patterns, fascinating details, and moments of awe. No evidence of civilization is allowed in these unabashedly romantic engagements with nature (Fahey/Klein Gallery, West Hollywood).

Robert Glenn Ketchum, "Fall
Spit, Nuyakuk," 2001, Fuji
crystal archive print.

Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle
Jones, No title, 1968, photograph.
Black and white photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones depict the actions, meetings and demonstrations, as well as many of the prominent figures, of the highly visible and controversial Black Panther Party of the 1960s. Taken from July to October, 1968 the documentary style photographs display a clear purpose: to humanize their subject. Though outsiders, Baruch and Jones were able to record moments, gestures and attitudes that can be seen as familiar and reassuring to insiders, even though they often appeared exotic and threatening through the lens of the mainstream press of the time (18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica).