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December, 2004

Koh Byoung Ok, "Mosquito Bite,"
2004, inkjet print, 39 3/4 x 53 x 1 1/4".
Koh shows a combination of installation, sculpture and large scale color photos that create a strange sense of awe. Matching the ultra quiet, reflective nature of the artist, the works--whether via image or craft--go out of their way to siphon a deep, profound silence from the simplest of things. A little like listening to those deep guttural Buddhist chants that both horrify and attract, Koh makes works you cannot stop looking at, cannot stop plumbing. Mounted on a loose white mylar-like material, one image zeros in on the top of a styrofoam coffee cup that, writ extra large (3-4 feet), becomes this meditation on minimal form, on absence.
There is a huge image of a bloated bit of skin enlarged so that one cannot decipher what it is (it’s a mosquito bite crosshatched with a finger nail to purge the toxins). Here it looks like a mythic scar across nature, or across the whole of our collective flesh. Suspended from the ceiling are foot long lengths of the artist’s hair methodically tied together end to end; the nearly invisible coils recall Eva Hesse, and mark our interaction with them by responding to each and every breath taken in their presence. Great stuff (Newspace Gallery, Hollywood).

The Monkey Portraits by well know celebrity photographer Jill Greenberg are psychological studies. The large scale photographic images of various species of monkeys have remarkably human characteristics and personalities. Both humorous and disturbing, Greenberg depicts her subjects in heightened detail and vivid color. Subject merges with the background such that one cannot help but question the veracity of the image. Are these real, or did Greenberg digitally enhance the images? The expressive qualities of the monkeys are uncanny, and the series when presented together illustrates the wide range of emotions one normally associates with human subjects. We see a “regal” monkey, a monkey Wince one entitled Punk, and even one entitled Dude (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Jill Greenberg, "Wince," 2004,
digital photographic print, 43 x 54".

Cindy Bernard, "Ludwig Wangburg Bandshell (City of
Clear Lake, 1954)," 2004, chromogenic print, 24 x 32".
Cindy Bernard’s color photographs of bandshells from the Midwest and California are hauntingly eerie images of empty silent places. Shot with a large format camera, these are straightforward documents. Rather than present these locations during the height of their activity, Bernard chooses to document them when they are not in use. Without a band or an event to celebrate, the images become studies of form and location. Bernard’s project is both a visual and conceptual study. The photographs chronicle her trip across the country, looking for examples of small local stages.
What one notices in these images, in addition to the central bandshell, is the organization of the elements surrounding the stage, specifically the seating and the landscape that has been isolated, captured by the Bernard’s exacting lens (Margo Leavin Gallery, West Hollywood).

Ben Shahn, Nelson Rockefeller, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine were among the friends and patrons who commissioned works in wood from George Nakashima in the years after the nisei craftsman was released from internment at Minidoka camp and opened his studio in New Hope, Pennsylvania. This exhibition features exquisitely crafted examples of the furniture Nakashima built including his personal reconfigurations of modernism, in which polished slabs of natural wood anchor rhythmically positioned linear elements. Nakashima’s reverence for the materials he selected and his regard for the architecture of the human body are bound together in his axiom, “Trees provide our most intimate contact with nature.” A rocking horse fashioned for his son Kevin in 1956 provokes a smile,

George Nakashima, "Conoid Bench," 1989, wood.
Photo: Jonathon Pollock.
but it is his daughter Mira’s work that looks to the future while building on the traditions and philosophy of her esteemed father (Japanese American National Museum, Downtown).

Neil Folberg, “Olive Tree,” 2004,
from the “Celestial Nights” series
Neil Folberg photographs the land and sky of Jerusalem and the Sinai and in these science assisted images of desert, taken with infrared and all manner of specialized films. The artist uses high technology to get to the very heart of the Middle East and its deep ties to the beginnings of culture. Land, sky, sand, stars and an intense quiet captured by Folberg shooting at night express that aspect of the fertile crescent that is truly timeless. As this area is awash in war, these images are the more poignant (Skirball Cultural Center, West Los Angeles).

Robbert Flick began as a modernist photographer making black and white images of the landscape in front of him. From early on he had a keen eye for framing and an affinity for the manmade. He documented both the rural and urban landscape, looking at what usually went unnoticed: the light and shadow of dimly lit parking lots most famously.

Robbert Flick, "SV66, at Solstice," from Sequential Views, 1984, 30
gelatin silver prints mounted on board, 9 x 12 1/2"; 48 x 76" overall.
Flick moved from single images to diptychs in which he juxtaposed two seemingly unrelated images. He finally moved to large scale grids, where he would capture sequences of buildings on a busy street or at the beach. These images are presented as large grids of black and white or colored images in which you can look at similarities and differences along the streets of Los Angeles that you may have passed a thousand times without really noticing. With the help of digital technologies and video cameras, Flick moved from using a still camera to recording entire blocks with a video camera. These sequences are then digitized and presented as seamless sequences. This survey traces Flick’s inventions and development from still photography to a multi-media (L.A. County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).

Ed Ruscha, "Mocha Standard," 1969, color screenprint, 19 x 37".

Ed Ruscha has his way with words (as well as shapes, shadows, substances, space, etc.) in a densely packed show that coincides with the current exhibition of his drawings at MOCA and his appointment as the U.S. representative to the 2005 Venice Biennale. Iconic imagery, including three versions of his Standard Stations, are on view along with prints and drawings fabricated from non-traditional media ranging from blackberries to unspecified organic materials like those in his News, Brews, Dues series of the 1970’s. Oil paintings on canvas hang next to drawings and lithographs, illustrating Ruscha’s mastery of media and staging, his restless experimental retooling of ideas, and his fascination with the look and meanings of words. The big and little Question and Answer (Q&A) of Life and Death are here, along with Heaven and Hell and Eleven Pieces of Cheese. The End (Ikon Gallery, Santa Monica).

A selection of vintage photographs by Lisette Model show off her people skills. Actually she often shot subjects at an anonymous distance, later enlarging and cropping to bring them up close and personal, as we see here to eccentric and revealing effect. More interested in ferreting out characters than character, Model’s human circus is amusing, pathetic, and riveting (Fahey/Klein Gallery, West Hollywood).

Lisette Model, "Woman with Veil," 1949, vintage silver gelatin photograph, 20 x 16".

Diana Moore, "Holy Purse," 2001, cast carbon steel, edition 1/8, 8 1/4 x 9 3/4 x 5 1/2"

Diana Moore makes cast carbon steel figures of women standing in common clothing--vest and pants, night dress--as if caught by a 3-D photograph. These recall the figures of George Segal, but rather than white and ghostly, the brownish patina makes these women earthy, oddly hyper present. Far more inventive than the figures are Moore’s take offs of the female hand bag. Made also from carbon steel, the containers look like a cross between ancient Chinese bronze vessels and oddly prickly, vulvar or pod-like packages. Good craft added to partly humorous, partly poetic, partly social references to all things female--anatomy, identity, obsession, mystery, discovery, tenacious presence--make the “purses” the real standout here (Forum Gallery, West Hollywood).

Mexican Francisco Toledo has been working in L.A. much of the last three years, and at first blush it may appear that modestly sized canvases of animals such as bats, turtles and fish are charming but prosaic. He often mixes oil and encaustic, cutting back into paint layers to produce linear effects that are energetic and glowing. In some work he relies on washes of color that produce an atmospheric haze. There is a growing sense that there are important stories or myths, a magical reality for which these creatures serve as the merest foreground (Latin American Masters, Beverly Hills).

Francisco Toledo, "Rabbit Beheading
Bean," 2002, oil on canvas, 15 3/4 x 20".

David McDonald, "Depths," 2001-04,
hydrocal/wood/joint compount/
acrylic/wax, 13 1/2 x 12 1/4 x 12 1/4".
Newspace has opened a new satellite gallery in the back of the furniture store Twentieth. One wanders though the sofas, tables, and lamps to get to the small white cube that has become Newspace@Twentieth. David McDonald’s exhibition Practice works in concert with the location. McDonald makes playful drawings, paintings, and sculptures, the experience of which parallels your navigation through the store. The sculptural works, both on the floor and on shelves, are piles of organic as well as geometric shaped objects. There is a formal appeal to these works, as something both familiar and unknown. The wall pieces, both abstract paintings and realistic drawings, have a life of their own. McDonald is a versatile artist who makes work that comes from the inside, rather than from direct observation (Newspace@Twentieth, West Hollywood).

Riffing off of scientific and biological models, Amy Myers unfurls her bracingly complex, if somewhat familiar brand of imagination at an operatic scale that is rarely attempted with this type of imagery and technique. The springboard may lie in reason, but the power—and fun—here comes from the works’ romantic sense of expansive possibility (Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont).

Amy Myers, "The Opera Inside the Atom," 2004, graphite/gouache/conte on paper, 132 x 120".

Guy Diehl, "Still Life with Velazquez and
Goya," 2004, acrylic on canvas, 28 1/4 x 34".
In Guy Diehl’s still life paintings, he imposes a narrative reading on the presentation of natural forms by juxtaposed images of fruit and bottles with images of books. In each of the beautifully painted works he carefully layers the objects he is to paint, examining the relationship between the forms. For example in Still Life with Velazquez and Goya, three bottles are presented behind two lemons and an orange (traditional still life materials). These objects are piled on top of the book Spanish Still Life thus adding another layer of meaning to the work. Diehl’s polished technique of applying color and defining form labels him a realist, yet his subject matter and subtle juxtapositions manage to take his works beyond the traditional (Hunsaker/Schlesinger Gallery, Santa Monica).

It is rare that a political cartoonist’s imagery transcends the topicality of their subjects to be regarded as art; think Honoré Daumier. Sue Coe brings a sure hand and exceptional graphic intensity to her biting and decidedly leftist voice. While her work long since came to be regarded as rarefied, it’s been awhile since she has exhibited in these parts, and her unflinching disgust with the whole business of war (and we do mean profiteering) is a needed stiff drink in the context of our polarized political environment (Overtones, Culver City).

Sue Coe, "What a Golden Beak! (They Want War)," 1999,
etching on wove paper hand colored, 7 3/4 x 11 7/8".

Dustin Schuler, "Spindle,"
mixed media sculpture, 1989.
For the better part of thirty years Dustin Shuler has expressed his fascination with California car culture iconoclastically, and with high humor that is, quite literally, sharply pointed. Since he uses full sized cars in his major work, this exhibition necessarily relies heavily on studies, maquettes, and photographic documentation to convey the evolution and character of this most unusual body of work. His familiar allusions are to equate the Great Urban Machines to animal trophies and bug collections--splayed like a drying pelt, or pinned like an exotic beetle. It’s easy to image the artist ruminating on the once ubiquitous VW Beetle to make the leap that is, honestly, larger in the execution than in the concept. But, by golly, he went and DID it, did it in the boldest possible way, and continues to do it with a clear and aggresive formal vigor that inflates the irreverance and charismatic presence--even when you are limited to imagining what a gathering of all the full scale sculptures would actually be like (CSU Fullerton, Orange County).

Nexus includes four artists whose works particularly address the interinterconnectedness of race, gender, sex and class. In a post feminist world, the show materials tell us, new work will be that which finds the point at which all these issues intersect. It seems as if minority status of the creator is part of what allows this sort of vision: Isabele Lutterodt was born in England, her father is from Ghana, and she uses found photographs and texts to explore family, history and colonialism. Shelia Pinkel is not a minority, but she takes on the prison system, creating a large grid of images and texts that map the de facto prejudice for the disenfranchised. Painter Alex Donis pays tribute to contemporary art-world women who have influenced and inspired him by sticking art folk females into male and white subjects of art history. Abdelali Dahrouch is a conceptual media artist whose haunting video installation engages transnational migration, linking immigrant issues to power and colonialism in places as far flung as the Middle East, North Africa and our own Southern borders (Cal Poly Pomona, Kellogg Gallery, Pomona).