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October, 2005

Katsushige Nakahashi, "Untitled," installation
view with the artist of the remains of burnt Zero
#03-06, from his 2000 performance in Australia.
Katsushige Nakahashi’s father worked on kamikaze planes during the war, but never told his artist son, as Japan buried its history of defeat and fascism. This work is part of a series that involved building tiny toy models of war planes, taking micro-detailed photos of sections of these, then soliciting the community to build life size war planes from the tiny collaged paper photos. One idea here is that through creative labor, artist and collective own their history and address the futility of war. On view is a poignant, large wing from a collaged plane, plus a display of selected individual photos (Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica).

The amoeboid little critters that mass in selective portions against the white grounds of David Allan Peters’ paintings are the product of numerous layers of paint that have been carved back into. The images equally tickle the eye and imagination, and also call attention to the calm but painstaking working process of the artist (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica).

David Allan Peters, "Untitled II C #08,"
2005, acrylic on panel, 10 1/2 x 10 1/2".

Pamela Mower-Conner:
(l.) “Wooden Saints”, acrylic on 12" diameter globe, 2004.
(r.) “Baroque Globe”, acrylic on 12" diameter globe, 2005.
Pamela Mower-Conner paints 12-inch spheres with lush, lurid images blending, in a dizzying parade to be viewed in the round like a turning globe, scenes of sky, water, circus faire, floating classical statuary, sea life and more. The skill of the representation, the challenge to the expected canvas surface, and the collision of irreconcilable realities make for interesting viewing (Gallery 825 Annex, Santa Monica).

An overview of furniture, architectural related design, working and archival photos by French designer Jean Prouve places him in the long tradition of the Bauhaus, linking the spread of excellent design with utopian collectives of makers and users. But this work is clearly eclectic, and so clearly whimsical, techno-savvy and more concerned with multi-valence than social activism, that we can only pin it to a post modern vibe. Whatever its point of origin, this is colorful, often deliciously wacky, always pristinely tooled stuff (look for the wonderful lounge chair) (MOCA at Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood).

Installation view of Jean Prouvé, "Three Nomadic Structures," showing Kangaroo chair (1951), wall light (1951-52), facade panel with portholes (1949), and ventilated wall panel (1951-52) mounted on exhibition displayscape membrane designed by architect Evan Douglis.

Togo Hisakatsu, "Incense Burner in the Form of an Elephant," 1868-c. 1900, satsuma ware: stoneware with oveglaze enamels and gold, 21 1/4 x 20 1/4 x 7 1/2".
Photo courtesy: Tokyo National Museum
Before international exhibitions exclusively devoted to art enticed viewers to amass frequent flyer mileage, world’s fairs wooed audiences, showcasing fine arts, crafts and design innovations along with technological advances from participating countries. Japan introduced work crafted by its artisans to the world at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867, at the dawning of the Meji period, when Western innovations influenced reform. A surprising variety of works in Japan Goes to the World’s Fairs: Japanese Art at the Great Expositions in Europe and the United States, 1867 - 1904 make up this unique exhibition.
They range from exquisite ceramics and lacquers to metalwork, textiles and screens that were originally displayed at gatherings, including the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (1876), the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893), and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (1904). It impressively documents the blending of fine art and traditional crafts, as well as the exchange of stylistic influences between Eastern and Western cultures (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, West Hollywood).

Lucas Reiner had been painting trees for a number of years. Isolated against the sky these lone figures take on human characteristics. The subject of his new works is fireworks, the pyrotechnics that pleasingly light up the night sky. Reiner has been making paintings of these controlled explosions for years, but this is the first time he has exhibited them. The sky, rather than a deep black is a mottled surface of textures and colors. The paintings appear to be in flux in much the same way that fireworks in a night sky are there one moment and gone the next (Carl Berg Gallery, West Hollywood).

Lucas Reiner, "Redentore #2,"
2005, oil on canvas, 66 x 75".

Rocky Schenck, "Sheep," 2005,
toned silver gelatin print, 16 x 22".
Rocky Schenck’s black and white photographic images hover between real and the imagined worlds. They are presented out of focus so that each has a drawing-like quality, as though they are hand made charcoal drawings rather than printed photographic images. The works, all large scale, present ambiguous moments and empty vistas full of haunting shadows. While the images are never frightening, they flirt with altered states of being and mind. The strange and the wonderful coexist in these magical images (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

In “Re-Make/Re-Model” the new paintings of Matty Byloos use vernacular architecture of the Los Angeles region as their point of departure. Beginning with a photograph, Byloos exaggerates the flattened space the photographic image provides, then enhances the figure/ground relationship by playing with different colors, textures and consistencies of paint. The resulting works juxtapose flat areas of color with modeled areas that are realistically rendered. The results are engaging and beautiful (SolwayJones, West Hollywood).

Casey Reas, "T/I," 2005, new media
installation - software/computers/
projectors, dimensions variable.
Casey Reas makes art from software. He is a master at manipulating the codes of the computer to create abstract patterns that continuously move and change. The moving lines are mesmerizing forms that appear to grow organically and change on their own. What happens automatically in mathematics and in technological pursuits is given a visual form by Reas. The work is system-based, yet is more visual than mechanical. Here Reas projects a series of images from the ceiling to just above the floor. As you walk among these pods of movement, you can’t help but think about the relationship between nature and the machine (Bank, Downtown).

The silhouette puppet theater of Kara Walker is equally rooted in historical stereotype and messy reality. Indeed, it is precisely this uncomfortable juxtaposition that keeps your attention. By turns delightful and downright nervy, “Song of the South” may be Walker’s response to the Joel Chandler Harris original and the Dis-ney adaptation, but, not surprisingly, it knocks down the cheery picture of the post-Civil War south in the venue built by the Disney family (Gallery at REDCAT, Downtown).

Kara Walker, "They Waz Nice White
Folks While They Lasted" (Says
One Gal to Another), 2001.

Albert Contreras, "Untitled Checkerboard," acrylic
gel on canvas, 30 x 36". Photo: John Elder.
If Albert Contreras had not taken a quarter century away from painting one can only speculate whether the Ralph Humphries-like forthright chromatic aggression that makes his grid-based abstraction highly charged yet, well, charming would have evolved or simply gradually become enervated. But the fresh energy radiating from his canvases does appear to be the highly unusual product of his hiatus, particularly given the continuity with his aesthetic position at the time of his 1972 “retirement” (USC Fisher Gallery, South Los Angeles).

The depiction of Scenes of American Labor is a naturally fascinating, one might say voyeuristic subject. What the work of others looks like is for the most part a mystery to the rest of us. This compilation of a large number of artist’s renditions of many types of labor is fun for this very reason, as well as for the sheer aesthetic variety. But it is all rooted in a basic and romantic respect for the laborer dating from the 1930’s that ringingly conveys that all of these ordinary folks are precisely why America is a titan (Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara).

Dan McCleary, "Marta," 2002,
oil on canvas, 44 x 36 1/2".

Jean Lowe, "How to Escape from
Quicksand" from "Library" installation, 2005,
enamel on papier mache, 9 1/2 x 11 x 3 1/2".
Glossy colors, bold titles and loosely-painted illustrations prove irresistible as viewers peruse shelf after shelf of oversized papier-mâché books in Jean Lowe’s “Library.” Extensive use of text in a gallery setting can fail easily, but Lowe’s knack for irony, lively humor, and biting sarcasm agilely overcomes that difficulty, compelling us to read and often reread each of the 200 titles. Lowe’s treatment of actual book titles, as well as her presentation of fabricated titles, mock complacent acceptance of religion, consumption, cultural norms, psychology and self-help advice. Some reveal their humor immediately, drawing a chuckle; others take a moment of reflection.
Step by step, book by book, we’re unwittingly, yet willingly, drawn into the circle of complicity as we become not only observer, but subject as well. For as human beings, as consumers, as participants in the contemporary social and political drama, we cannot escape our nature. In one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent, these books are about us (William D. Cannon Art Gallery, San Diego County).

Rebecca Campbell’s large scale paintings stand out due to her technical skill and innovative subject matter. Five paintings of adolescent boys are painted from above the shoulders in exacting detail. Yet there is something off about the relationship between the subjects and the painter. The boys stare at us, they are larger than life, and are simultaneously inviting and confrontational. Other works include “Wall Flower,” a large scale painting of a nude woman in a bathtub as seen from above. Campbell has the ability to paint convincing realism, yet her subject matter is never straightforward. There are always psychological implications embedded into the scenarios she depicts (L.A. Louver, Venice).

Rebecca Campbell, "Unwritten: Willie,"
2004, oil on canvas, 48 x 48".

Nancy Spero, "Sheela," 1986,
handprinting on paper, 19 1/2 x 24".
One of our most overtly political artists over a career that has spanned a half century, Nancy Spero here blends feminist rhetoric with a rush of historical contexts, mainly ancient. In these small handprints and collages images of women race across the page against a roughly executed, striped or gridded abstract ground. The themes in these often horrific subjects revolve around the torture of women and their oppression (Overtones, Culver City).

Lynda Benglis’ fresh take on ceramic sculpture brings with it the power and zeal of the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. Unrestrained by conventions adopted by some artists who work exclusively in clay, Benglis works her magic, commanding color, texture, luster and form to do her bidding with an edginess that proves exhilarating (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

Lynda Benglis, "Ruptured Hat/Knot A,"
1992-93, ceramic and mixed media, 13 x 20 x 20".