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November, 2004

Victor Raphael, “U.F.O.”, 1992, Gold
Leaf on Spectrum Polaroid, 4" x 4".
BioBallistic is a group show of artists who share an interest in the macro- and micro-mysteries of biological and cosmological science. The artists featured are Lita Albuquerque, Lynn Aldrich, Tony Berlant, Eric Johnson, Marianne Magne, Michael C. McMillen, Sarah Perry, Victor Raphael, Peter Shelton, and Daniel Wheeler. What they all share is work that turns on the magical and unknowable aspects of science, so that much of the work ends up looking very abstract and lyrical indeed (Municipal Art Gallery, Hollywood).

In Mottosynthesis Koji Takei uses the symbol of the arrow to juxtapose his sense of the California landscape--the desert--with that of his native Japan. In these delicate mixed media works beautifully painted, sky-like amorphous fields--sometimes gridded into quadrants--serve as a stage for all manner of strange objects: string coiled into the shape of a fish, feathers, leaves, tattered money, debris and bric-a-brac. So cleverly have these compositions been calibrated, so careful are the depth cues, color harmonies and the arrangements that it is hard to tell where the hand of the artist ends and the found objects begin. Still, the feel is quiet and unforced, like a visual koan (Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica).

Koji Takei "The One", 2004,
mixed mediums, 16 x 20 x 1 inches.

Manuel Neri, "Mary Julia," 1973, charcoal,
pastel and dry pigment on paper, 42 x 29 3/4".
Artists sometimes like to say they “push paint.” Manuel Neri pushes paint and clay with as visceral an energy as anybody. Aside from the known pleasures of an encounter with his moving and evocative figures, we get a focused look at the aesthetic product of his professional and personal relationship with model Mary Julia Klimenko. Works here cover a 30-year period, but this is more about the evolution of a fixed point that any sort of overview of Neri’s career achievement (Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Santa Monica).

The late Harry Callahan was an influential photographer who explored abstraction, landscape, cityscape and the human figure in his black and white images. Best known for his formalist approach, Callahan had a talent for creating strong composition and dynamic movement within the frame. This selection of classic Callahan images ranges from nude studies of his wife Eleanor to multiple exposure abstractions. Callahan created manipulated images before digital photography was possible. This work still resonates due to its clarity of vision and form (Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica).

Harry Callahan, "Eleanor, Chicago,"
1948, photograph, 8 x 4 15/16".

Dorothea Lange, "Imperial Valley
Mexican", gelatin silver print.

Horace Bristol, "Joad Family Applying
for Relief," gelatin silver print.

A look at the classic 1930s-era documentary photography of Dorothea Lange and Horace Bristol will always provide a vivid and resonant reminder of the condition of America during the Great Depression. The selections here center on migrant workers, displaying both their humanity and their deplorable conditions. Bristol gathered his images in collaboration with John Steinbeck, and represents the visual side of the novelist’s landmark Grapes of Wrath (Ventura County Museum, Ventura).

Connie Samaras, "Angelic States - Event Sequence Demorcratic National Convention 2000, Francisco Street, Los Angeles," 2000, chromogenic light jet print.

Gary Simmons, "Ballroom
1," 2003, lightjet print.

Pure pleasure in formal properties gives way to disorientation and disbelief in the work of twelve artists selected by guest curator Charles Gaines to question the relationship between image and meaning through the exploration of issues of memory in person-al, social and cultural contexts in Remembering. Glenn Ligon universalizes private moments, monumentalizing failed sexual connections on bronze plaques positioned in public places. Matthew Buckingham reinvents issues of truth and falsity in “historical” film footage that places Abraham Lincoln at a 1960’s dinner party. Connie Samaras photographs crime scenes that evolve into spectacles. Dee Williams examines dislocation and meaning in Berlin street signs and the rift between text and imagery in the staging of photographs purported to document the early use of anesthetics. By filling in the gaps, the viewer becomes engaged in the artists’ production of reality (UC Riverside, Sweeney Art Gallery, Riverside).

Joel Tauber, "Searching for the Impossible:
The Flying Project," DVD 32 minutes.
Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles, and the Adamski Gallery.

Brian Calvin, "Nowhere Boogie,"
2000, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 60".
Courtesy of the artist and Marc
Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles.

To inaugurate the Orange County Museum of Art’s renovated facilities the curators have joined forces to present the 2004 California Biennial, inviting more than 25 young/up-and-coming California artists to create new works for the exhibition. As in any group show there are both good pieces and bad, but here the proportion of hits is high. Works are in media ranging from drawing, painting and photography to installations, digital video and the internet. The exhibition fills the entire museum and continues at the Orange Lounge, the Museum’s new satellite space at South Coast Plaza. For those who want to get a sense of what’s being done today, the 2004 Biennial fills the need. The artists include: Libby Black Mark Bradford, Marco Brambilla, Brian Calvin, Sean Duffy, Mark Dutcher, Simon Evans, Kota Ezawa, Kim Fisher, Amy Franceschini Futurefarmers, Karl Haendel, Jeffrey Inaba, Glen Kaino, Soo Kim, Michelle Lopez, Mads Lynnerup, Malerie Marder, Kori Newkirk, Ruben Ochoa, Kaz Oshiro, RIGO 23, Mindy Shapero, Shirley Shor, Joel Tauber, Josephine Taylor, Mungo Thomson, Kerry Tribe, VALDES: Peter Zellner and Jeffrey Inaba (OCMA Newport Beach, Orange County).

Stas Orlowski, "Cactus",
2004, etching, 12 x 10".
Printmaker/curator Patrick Merrill has, with the aid of nine other artists, created a varied and engaging exhibition and exchange portfolio of prints under the title Exurbia, a word coined by Merrill to connote the environment as an overarching theme. This effort by a multi-faceted group of artists--which includes Michael Woodcock, Stas Orlovski, Tom Herbert, Chris Toovey, Tom Stubbs, Kim Shoenstadt, Carl Hertel, Anne Marquis, Kim Abeles, Bob Alderette, Carl Beam and Merrill--collaborating thematically with a single printmaker holds together in spite of the aesthetic diversity (Old Town Gallery, Orange County).

Referring to his work, generally, as the Recursive Manipulation of Representational Images, Tim Quinn sets out in various physical forms (sculpture, books, digital prints and drawings) and in various social forms (parties, openings and performances) to create mutually transferable structures. He makes wacky and finicky sculptural objects that are also scanned into digital form in order to reappear as a flattened 3D space. This is in turn pushed through his own AppleScript Photoshop code to produce a randomized kaleidoscope effect that can appear as either infinite wallpaper or a segmented flip book.

Tim Quinn, "Big Ball", 2004.
All of this is not bound together by style or look, but by the intentions and results of overlapping experiments. You may well see something you have seen before, but it’s been reworked in Quinn’s hands to retain its familiarity while not being at all what it once was (Dangerous Curve, Downtown).

Gustavo Lopez Armentia, "Los
Pueblos Viajan," mixed media, 63 x 87".
The pictorial space dwarfs generally diminutive figures in Argentine Gustavo Lopez Armentia’s bleak but rich scenes. The gray, brown and golden tonalites are sombre, as are the subjects: violent exchanges on a battlefield (The Reason for Goya’s Dreams), or men gathered around a barren table beneath which dogs howl. But the strong feeling of body language, visual details, and atmospheric density seduce the eye and deepen the reflection (galerie yoramgil, West Hollywood).

A new series of ceramics by Adrian Saxe dangle and preen in a display of remarkable beauty for its own sake. Objects look like cascading earrings writ large, suggest strange contraptions like hookahs or Asian talismans, all delivered in ceramic surfaces worked to compete in translucency and sensuality with the oldest and most lush glass traditions. These objects stake a place as sculpture for a medium that has made its way by being useful. The use here? To please the eye (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

Adrian Saxe, "Untitled Ewer (BSD),"
2004, porcelain/stoneware and
mixed media, 13 x 8 1/4 x 5 5/8".

Newcomer Yvette Molina’s botanical and landscape subjects may be set in a soberly misty atmosphere with muted color, but there is a subtle and luminous beauty lurking. The presence of small details and markings walk the line between fancy and realism (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica).

Yvette Molina, "Hills in Mist,"
2004, oil on aluminum, 72 x 24".

In a ten-year survey Richard Shelton employs a matter-of-fact realist painting technique to establish character types that divide into victims (women, youth, minorities) and oppressors (men in suits or abstract visual elements). It may be pedantic, but the precise and straightforward visual contrasts display a refreshing willingness to join aesthetic and political seeing together without getting coy about either (Mt. San Antonio College, Pomona).

Richard Shelton, "Avant-Garde/Avant
Guardian," 2001, oil on canvas, 44 x 63".

Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn,
"8 Demo 2: Thie Teater Gallery
Tragedy," 2004, digital media.
“alt + ctrl” is a multi media exhibition that explores online gaming and gaming culture. Curated by UCI faculty members Robert Nideffer and Antoinette LaFarge with assistance from Celia Pearce, the exhibition examines where art and gaming intersect. Among the nationally and internationally known artists in the exhibition are: Alexander Galloway, Aureia Harvey, Brody Condon, C-Level, collapsicon, delire and pix, Eddo Stern, gameLab, Geoffrey Thomas, Indie Game Jam, Maia Engeli and Nina Czegledy, Molleindustria, Nick Montfort, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Olaf Val Mignon, Pappy Boyington, Rebecca Cannon, THE JAB, and Yumi-Co. While many of the works are online projects, the organizers of the exhibition have structured the pieces so that there is something to see as well as do in the gallery.
The juxtaposition of ideas and intentions amongst the numerous strategies of games is what sets this exhibition apart and makes it a worthwhile experience that goes well beyond the solo interaction with a home computer (UC Irvine, Beal Center, Orange County).

The image of the Virgin of Guadalupe has graced cathedrals and humble dwellings, home altars and household goods and even parts of the body. Now, the various ways in which Hispanic Catholics (Mexican and Southwestern for the most part) have paid homage to her has been documented in an exhibition curated by Lynn La Bate, a former curator here. La Bate has effectively gathered artifacts and documentation chronicling the first appearance of the saint, her role as patroness of the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican civil and labor rights movements in the United States, and her inspiration to a multi-ethnic cadre of feminists. Works range from touching folk-art ex-votos in which petitioners give thanks to miracles granted, to vivid contemporary depictions by Chicano painters Patssi Valdez and Ricardo Duffy.

Patssi Valdez, "Virgen de Guadalupe/
Virgin of Guadalupe," 1996, acrylic
on canvas, 48 x 24 1/8".
Photo courtesy the Buck Collection.
Photographs by Charles Mann show how veneration of the Virgin spans generations and lifestyles. The show is informative and engaging without ever resorting to preaching or political correctness. La Bate’s only overt agenda is to introduce the general public to a cultural phenomenon worthy of celebration (Fullerton Museum Center, Orange County).

Steve Roden, Mark Simons, AnnMarie
Polsenberg Thomas, "ear(th),"
2004, mixed media, installation view.
Photo: Steven A. Heller.
Cultural organizations in the greater Pasadena area, including: Armory Center for the Arts, Art Center College of Design, Caltech, the Norton Simon Museum, the Huntington Library and additional non-art venues have collaborated to produce The Tender Land, a city-wide awareness event focusing on the nexus between art and responsibilities to the earth. Art Center hosts ear(th), itself a collaboration between artist Steve Roden and Caltech earth scientist Mark Simons, Caltech robotics engineer Joel Burdick, and robotics graduate student Ann Marie Polsenberg. The team has transformed the Williamson Gallery space into an installation/musical instrument that is “played” and “viewed” as a consequence of data retrieved from technologies tracking earth forces. It is a light and sound show you will not want to miss; in no manner hokey, it is part gizmo, part conceptual art environment, part sophisticated aural sculpture.

To view Rodney Graham’s exhibition A Little Thought requires a time commitment beyond the usual. While there are numerous photographs and installations in the show, the majority of the works are projected videos. Graham has been making video works for 25 years, and this exhibition brings together highlights from his lengthy career. Graham is careful not to demand too much from his viewers, thus most of the works range between 8 and 15 minutes. They are worth the time. Graham is a great storyteller, which capacity is added to a keen visual sense. Graham’s work, while conceptual in nature, explores issues ranging from self portraiture to the environment. He is often the subject as well as the director (MOCA, Geffen Contemporary, Downtown).

Rodney Graham, "Photokinetoscope," 2004,
166-mm film installation with vinyl disc, projector,
looper mechanism, and modified turntable.

Pierre Picot, "9-23-04,"
2004, acrylic, 78 x 73".

Tim Ebner, "Untitled," 2004,
oil on canvas, 24 x 26".

Pierre Picot’s obsession with the marginal, intended as a site for unpredictable visual enchantment, has turned to a child’s cardboard toy boat and elevated it to the level of armada. Not an armada with bellicose intentions, but rather a whimsical cruise into a dream-like state where eclectic, animated boats circle and weave on the perpendicular surfaces of his paintings; or alternately, they morph in progression to physically larger replicas ranging from the minute to the large scale on a sea of swirling reds.
Tim Ebner’s hilarious forays into the anthropomorphic twining of wild and human animal fragments has found its way into carnival masks and the odd conjunction of human bodies and animal heads. Mostly consisting of moderately scaled charcoal drawings with one smaller oil painting, the eyes of these things stare out at the viewer sometimes warily, other times forlorn, and often quite comically (ANDLAB Gallery, Downtown).

William H. Johnson, "Café,"
ca. 1939-40, oil on paper-
board, 36 1/2 x 28 3/8".
African American Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of the most engaging art shows in town. If you’ve never quite figured out what the notion of “honest” art really means, the majority of artists shown here seem to have figured it out. William H. Johnson joyfully experiments with style and subject matter but, as paintings like Café and Going to Church attest, stayed true to his roots by painting in a direct, graphically powerful manner. Photographs by Gordon Parks and James Vanderzee provide a historical backdrop to works like Palmer Hayden’s narrative painting The Janitor Who Paints, a tribute to fellow artist Cloyde cq Boykin who, like many of his black peers, created in obscurity.
Social issues, never far from the consciousness of African Americans, are eloquently addressed without rancor or bathos. Altogether the show comprises an adept blend of media and styles with more contemporary abstract works like Sam Gilliam’s Open Cylinder and Evening Rendezvous getting the attention they deserve (Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach).