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November, 2005

Ken Feingold, "The Animal, Mineralness
of Everything," silicone/fiberglass/stell/software/
electronics/computers, 48 x 60 x 60".
Ken Feingold is a New York based multi-media artist who makes installations, video and sculptures that often include talking robot heads that are both unsettling and enticing. Works created since the mid-1980s are presented here, allowing viewers to trace his evolution from text-based works on paper and canvas to his technological inventions. The subject of Feingold’s work is the body: how it relates to space, both formal and social. Since the late 1990’s he has been making self-portraits that feature isolated heads that are programmed by a computer to talk to each other when viewers enter the room. The heads are placed in different settings, for example in a bed or a box, and are entirely indifferent to the fact that they have no body.
Video projection and interactive sensors are frequently incorporated, furthering the perplexing interchange between artificial life and human discourse (Ace Los Angeles, West Hollywood).

The majority of Larry Fink’s in your face black and white photographic images are medium to large scale in format. Using a square frame allows him to control his compositions. He has photographed society as well as street life with an acute ability to present what lurks under the surface. He has a keen eye and an incredible sense of composition. Aggressive framing and cropping move his images from the distanced stance of the snapshot journalistic aesthetic into the realm of fine art. The works are both social commentary and studies of human interaction (Stephen Cohen Gallery, West Hollywood).

Larry Fink, "Hugh Heffner, Oscar Party,"
Hollywood, CA, March 2002, photograph.

Censer with Seated King, Guatemala,
c. 350-450 AD, ceramic with slip, 33 x 12 1/2".
It is hard to wrap our minds around a civilization in our hemisphere that invented the null set that allows math, built a domed structure whose only logical function was likely a sophisticated observatory called the Caracol, constructed without beasts of burden whole cities with gargantuan pyramids, and at its height was a huge Empire run by sacred kings waging some of the most effective wars and enemy enslavement in history. The Meso American culture was so complex, advanced and important as to boggle the mind. Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship is a magnificent show of objects that treats the central role of sacred kingship in the Mayan empire, trade and religion.
It examines how this ritual institution fit in with astutely advanced ideas of bloodletting, of creation, and of preservation (LACMA, West Hollywood).

Lidded Tripod Vessel, Honduras, c. 450-500 AD,
ceramic with stucco and pigment, 7 5/8 x 9 5/16".

Well known Hollywood director Milton Katselas presents his alter ego as visual artist. The array of works here include everything from (somewhat naïve) amorphous dancing nudes outlined in white and painted on carpet, to far more interesting mixed media works that include collaged media/magazine snippets composed in layers, obscured by hand applied color, so that legs and eyes peer out erotically (Don O’Melveny Gallery, West Hollywood).

Milton Katselas, "Call me from the
airport," mixed media, 55 x 50".

Gronk, "Chinatown is Near," 2005,
mixed media, 96 x 144" (three panels).
Abstract organic figures crowd and spill over each other in delightful and rich compositions that allow Gronk to move away from his increasingly stereotypical Latin American style. Whew, just in time! Picasso and Philip Guston become more central to work that, for all of its high level of mastery and typically exuberant energy, is not clearly coming from the heart of the artist. Visually arresting it is, but this is wait and see work (L2kontemporary, Downtown).

Frank Lloyd Wright’s fascination with Japanese architecture and culture served him well. The sales he made of Edo period woodblock prints to private clients and museums reinforced the aesthetics he cherished while supplementing his income. An Assortment of Beauties: Woodblock Prints Collected by Frank Lloyd Wright is a small but stunning collection of ukiyo-e prints that focus depictions of “bijin,” beautiful women. Various classes of courtesans and geisha are shown entertaining and at leisure, enveloped in the elaborately designed kimonos that signify their rank. One artist manages to skirt censorship laws prohibiting the public depiction of contemporary women other than paid professionals by transforming three local beauties into historical figures from the old Heian period (Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena).

Rekisentei Eiri, "Representation of the
Three Great Beauties of the Heian
Period" (detail), c. 1790-1800,
color woodblock, Oban triptych.

Connie Samaras, "South Pole
Dome and Tunnel," photograph.
Hollyhock House, the residence Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned for oil heiress and unconventional patron of the arts, Aline Barnsdall is an iconic legend of California’s architecture of constant change. In celebration of the most recent restoration of Wright’s first attempt to develop a regionally appropriate style connecting interior and exterior spaces, Details of Distinction presents photographs by four artists that thoughtfully re-examines details of the structure. In addition Dwellings, in the Municipal Gallery space, is an ambitious show that includes photos by Edmund Teske and Gil Garcetti along with drawings, paintings, photographs and three dimensional work by a dozen artists selected to interpret the theme of built structures.
Of special interest are the architectural models and fragile looking hand drawn plans that guided Wright’s son Lloyd and the then apprentice Rudolph Schindler as they made the architect’s dreams for Aline Barnsdall’s haven on Olive Hill a reality (Barnsdall Park, Hollywood).

Max Liebermann was the preeminent experimental painter working in Realist to Impressionist modes in Germany from the turn of the century until the Nazi repression began in 1933. We associate the revolution of art that is intensely observed from life, that studied the nature of light and seeing, with France and artists like Courbet, Millet and early Impressionism. Nazi repression of Libermann’s work all but removed his important contributions to this inquiry; this show is a much needed reintroduction (Skirball Cultural Center, West Los Angeles).

Max Liebermann, "Cabbage Field,"
1923, oil on canvas, 19.8 x 27.3".

Roni Stretch, "Claritza, Viridian Hue, Saratoga
Springs," oil/alkyd resin on canvas, 80 x 54".
Can you have it both ways? English born, Los Angeles based Roni Stretch wants to combine minimal, abstract and realist traditions. His “Dichromatic Series” of paintings are technically stunning portraits constructed from a very detailed manipulation of alternating layers of just two colors of paint. These works acknowledge the nature of pixelated representation, nod to the now old Modernist idea that pure paint and shape is the basis of all visual experience, while they use pure color to produce realistic images appealing to the most literal and classically based tastes (Gallery C, South Bay).

Pessimism speaks eloquently in Camille Rose Garcia’s narrative universe. The pathetic anime humanity depicted here is the constant victim of what comes across as its own dank world populated by id monsters that dispassionately have their way with them.

Camille Rose Garcia, "Lulu and Cherry Girl," 2005, dolls.
These are little girl musings grown up and gone awry. The content is hardly topical or specific, but the quality of stylization catches the eye and holds it long and hard enough to allow the outrage to leak, and eventually pour out (CSUF Grand Central Art Center, Orange County).

Robert Rauschenberg, "Game Time," 1998, vege-
table dye transfer on polylaminate, 97 x 61".
Photo: Robert Wedemeyer

Greg Colson, "Greater Transparency," 2005,
enamel/acrylic/pencil and collage on wood/
metal and plexiglas, 20 3/4 x 19 x 8 1/2".

Filling the large main space are collaged paintings by Robert Rauschenberg. Employing transfer processes for which his name has long been synonymous, he overlays found as well as own photographic images on white canvas so as to generate narrative works that speak about time, history and memory. The works on view were created between 1995 and 2001, and illustrate just one aspect of his production. These are compositionally complex, yet they lose impact for the volume of repetition. Also on view is new work by Greg Colson. Colson’s drawings and sculptural wall works explore the effects of the media, how information is processed and how data, stripped down to its bare essentials can be interpreted and misread. The pairing of these two artists makes sense, as both draw from mass media and popular culture so as to shape a critical view of contemporary society (Griffin Contemporary, Santa Monica).

Jo Ann Callis, "Striped Armchair,"
2004/05, oil on canvas on panel, 22 x 18".

Masao Yamamoto, detail from
installation of gelatin silver prints, 2005.

Long known for her photography, Jo Ann Callis is now making both paintings and works on paper based on photographic images. She has painted portraits of dogs and babies, isolated furniture-like ottomans and chairs. These items are painted in exacting detail. Each object is placed on the floor against a bare wall. The personalities of these banal articles are expressed through gestural renderings. They nevertheless have a photographic quality to them, served by the fact that both the color and composition are minimal. Callis also has created a series of ink jet prints that fuse floral motifs and patterns with reproductions of bedroom interiors from a myriad of sources. They work as a complement to the minimal paintings by adding another point of view to the interior scenes. Masao Yamamoto makes photographic installations that crawl up and across the walls. His myriad of small, toned photographs combine atmospheric, landscape, and body imagery. They are unframed and delicate. Novel visual interest and a sense of meaning are created through the juxtaposition and sequencing of these evocative images (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

De Wain Valentine, "Purple
Illuminated Skyline," 1998.

Nancy Braver, "Ellipse"
(detail), 2005.

The former Joslyn Art Center has not only undergone a lengthy renovation, but is now recast as a new museum space. It relaunches under its fresh identity with a two artist exhibition whose title serves as an obvious but apt transformative metaphor: “Plastic.” De Wain Valentine is well remembered for his plexiglas contributions to the Light & Space movement of the 1960s. He grafted a sleek minimalist aesthetic to transparent or translucent objects that always took light into account, often in novel and innovative ways, such as extending the object beyond the darkened gallery to bring exterior daylight inside. His recent paintings on display here bring his interest in light and contrast to a two dimensional environment. His response to the observed horizon line reveals how the ocean has very much been his subject of choice. Nancy Braver exhibits a group of hanging acrylic columns composed of clear disks that conduct rather than contain color (Torrance Art Museum, South Bay).