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December, 2006

“Keeping Body and Soul Together,” the exhibition of new work by Nancy Evans is an altogether unexpected mix of outsider influenced art forms with the tendencies of art informale. For the cast “Bride” and “Groom,” modified leaf forms are built up into a blue/green burst of flowering mounds and a brown tinted phallic hood, uh, thing, respectively. The details in the cast surfaces make these anything but predictable, given their archetypal obviousness. The thin reed-like arms (all four of them) sticking out from the gourd-like body of “Kali II” are offset by an odd little faux tiger loincloth and a string of painted bean skulls. Evans’ world is strangely compelling in that it oddly skews a productively discordant arrangement of traditional phantasms (Dangerous Curve, Downtown).

Nancy Evans, "Kali II".

Chris Natrop, “Landing Nowhere Else,” 2006,
watercolor, irredescent medium, green tea, tape
on cut paper, thread, nylon netting, 20 x 20 ft.
Chris Natrop’s “Into the Silver See-Through” is a dreamy installation of meticulously hand-cut white paper pinned, suspended or taped to the given of the gallery’s white architecture. The works become beautiful “quasi-utopias” (as he calls this body of work), which reward the viewer with infinite opportunities to get lost in a private cosmos. In these labor-intensive works, Natrop’s cuts are not pre-determined; he relinquishes control and allows the work to grow itself as he navigates his way across the page. The process of “getting lost” is a Buddhist ideal. While this work is clearly secular in nature, walking into the gallery to be among these elegant forms is an opportunity to reflect on something larger than the self (Bank, Downtown).

Coleen Sterrit’s new work departs from her past production in that the miscegenation of furniture and wood debris veers into somewhat Dada territory. Where her previous work banked off of the traditions of surrealism and California assemblage, Max Ernst and Francis Picabia can be seen as the ghosts in the machine of her latest work. This is especially true in “Domestic Fairytale,” an improbably fanciful tree diagram made of wood, glue, found furniture and miscellaneous hardware; and in “Daddy-O,” a stegosaurian animaloid concocted out of wood fragments, glue, insulation foam, cork, paint, shellac and found furniture (d.e.n. contemporary, Culver City).

Coleen Sterrit, "Pinecone Stack," 2003-05,
pinecones/wood/adhesive, 96 x 35 x 22".

Kaz Oshiro, “Tailgate (YO TO YO)”, 2006,
acrylic and bondo canvas, 3-part Each 53 x 17 7/8 x 1 3/4",
bottom edges 12" from wall with 6" intervals.
In a delightful way to show that teachers do pass the torch on to students and that students take the lessons and make them their own, this two person exhibition features mentor Dan Douke and his Cal State L.A. student Kaz Oshiro. Both work in the style that Douke is known for: 3-D trompe l’oeil paintings that defy the term. In this pairing the somewhat busier and realist based works of Douke sit beside Oshiro’s more punningly simple objects. What is nice is that both upturn the idea of less is more precious abstraction in these 3-D homages to L.A. car culture that want to move away from the wall and sit in space. Dedicated to our love affair with our “rides,” you will see mock re-dos of Toyota pick up truck parts and other references to those objects which we commuters see more than our loved ones (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica [Note—Douke’s survey at Cal State L.A. continues into December, and was covered in our November issue—Ed.).

Lawrence Gipe has always painted from historic imagery. He transforms photographic images into works that are painted in exacting detail and brilliant colors. While there are new large-scale paintings in this exhibition that depict cabaret acts from the 1930s which celebrated grace and balance, the majority of the exhibition is devoted to black and white monotypes. The monotypes present flowing figures against a black field. The sparseness of the backgrounds suggest a giant void, however the delicate gestures that define the figures emphasizes the movement, as well as a the instant caught in the frame. The time and place along with the source of the images suggests a certain content that can be seen to defy time through Gipe’s transformations (Hunsaker/Schlesinger Fine Art, Santa Monica).

Lawrence Gipe, "No. 1 from Zirkus und Varieté,"
2006 oil on canvas, 24 x 36".

Cecilia Z. Miguez, "Secrets," 2006, patinated
bronze, wood, glass, 16.5 x 6.25 x 6.25 inches
In “Twenty Hours before Dawn” Cecilia Z. Miguez continues her interrogation of time as a timeless space, and conversely, a space-less time. This apparent contradiction is expressed in the title work, a twenty foot long procession consisting of bronze figures caught and absorbed in the daily duties of life, followed by nightly dreams of fantastic entities, and finally ending with a failed attempt to cross a threshold into another space. They (we) are simply and forever caught in an endless cycle of always waiting for the next dawn. In two other works, “A Book of Hours,” and “The End of Time or The Missing Hour, “ the chests of the the bronze, wood and found object figures, representing time, are studded with faces of watches ticking away in different times and directions. Here, Miguez stops time, playing with our stubborn obsession with linear time, offering instead the possibility of the many circles of time that make up our reality (Louis Stern Fine Art, West Hollywood).

It’s been remarked that in some city at any time there is a show of Peter Shire’s work. We know him first for his ceramic teapots, but in fact he has made Memphis-style furniture, an array of pictures and a good many outdoor public sculptures. All share in the playful geometric puzzles that serve as the basis of all his work. This show emphasizes the non-teapot side of Shire, and as such reveals the depth of his talent. It is a comprehensive overview of conceptual paintings, drawings and colorful maquettes that chronicle his public artworks installed all over the globe, LA to Japan (Tobey C. Moss, West Hollywood).

Peter Shire, "Painting: Barbie's Ivory Tower,"
1986, gouache on heavy paper, 22 5/8 x 29 5/8".

Rebeca Méndez, "Homeland 3, Severe Red," 2006, inkjet print and plexiglas, 40 x 15"

Rebecca Mendez’ epic reflections on the landscape take the form of triptychs in which the details of the land around her are blurred, collaged and run into patterns that underscore her repeated recordings of them. Registering essentially as sublime landscape, elongated works such as “Homeland 3, Peace White” and “Dettifoss 001-003 (Triptych)” reference the work of Caspar David Friedrich and Albert Bierstadt, and embrace an elevated sense of the decorative. Roll into that the apparent ambivalence of titling many to reference the homeland and the picture is complete (ANDLAB, Downtown).

In Takeshi Murata’s “Untitled (Silver),” the viewer experiences a captivating large, black and white video of continuously morphing and oozing abstraction. Out of the lovely abstractions, a human hand is revealed, or perhaps a mouth, or a woman with 1960’s beauty and bouffant hair. The emergence of realistic physical beauty amidst the trippy distortions is initially shocking, but also reassuring. When they morph out again the feelings of loss and confusion are intense. Murata has taken clips from Italian director Mario Bava’s 1960 horror film, “Mask of Satan,” and through spiffy digitization collapses physical and mental realities elegantly.

Takeshi Murata, "Untitled (Silver)," 2006, video.
It is a creepy and seductive experience that conjures up notions of fear, technology, history, genre, and Otherness. There is an honest terror in the “spaces between,” and Murata’s video expertly explores it (Machine Project, Echo Park).

Figurative paintings by York Chang and Yu Ji are created with intense dark color that speaks to a generation raised on “The Ring,” flooding our senses up close and intense on the big screen. Chang uses a rather smooth, almost photorealist style, often of faces in crowds caught with such ambiguity they could be partying or just anonymously joined in some random event of absent intimacy, like waiting. Ji’s style is more gestural, where hot, dark paints move more thickly on the surface. But the mood is still of people gathering, but somehow not connecting in the typically urban activities where this is the rule. The show is called “Urban Isolation” and may refer to a generation coming to grips with the fact that when you turn off the monitor or the iPod, you are increasingly quite alone (CSU Dominguez Hills, South Bay).

Marcelino Goncalves, "Untitled," 2006,
oil and graphite on panel, 48 x 70 inches.
Marcelino Goncalves makes paintings from photographs he finds in the newsmedia, on the internet or that he takes himself. He transforms source material into seductively painted surfaces. Layers of gesso on panel create a hard white surface onto which Goncalves carefully layers translucent areas of paint. Although his subject matter is representational, the works have an abstract quality and reflect an incredible amount of light. The largest image here depicts a group of soldiers sitting in a bunker playing with their guns while simultaneously giving the finger to the person taking the photograph. This painting is presented along with a portrait of Pat Tillman, the ex-football player who was killed in Afghanistan.
The light colors in Goncalves’ work contradicts the aggressive nature of his subject matter, which make the works all the more compelling (Cherry and Martin, West Los Angeles).

John Szarkowski, "The National Farmers (now Norwest) Bank, Owatonna, Minnesosta," 1954.

John Szarkowski was the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City from 1962 -1991. While a renowned curator and writer, Szarkowski has also always made his own black and white images. This selection of works from his long career were mostly made with a 4x5 view camera depicting both the urban and natural landscape. His images are compositionally dense and are layered with visual information that capture a ‘spirit of place.’ There are images of church interiors, New York City facades, and open fields of grass. They are frequently beautiful, and if in the documentary and modernist tradition, they also exude an aesthetic richness (Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica).

Many of the photographs Wolfgang Tillmans has positioned on the gallery walls with binder clips or tape look very much like something that might roll off your inkjet printer if you are inclined to snap shots of friends and lovers (eg., “Jochen taking a bath”). Oh, there are some zingers that stop you dead in your tracks, unforgettable images like “Suzanne & Lutz white dress,” “army skirt” or “Shaker rainbow.” But to Tillmans, everything has potential. Be sure to see the newer abstract work created without a camera, and the “56 Concorde” images in which he manufactures a pretext for doing something else. And then there’s the unexpected mixed media network of tables, “Truth Study Center.” It raises questions about the news we read, but really shouldn’t take for granted. Much of the meaning of this show builds only when you look carefully at the combined entity. The juxtaposition and alignment of works, carefully controlled by the artist, is central to any serious examination of Tillmans’ intentions (Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).

Wolfgang Tillmans, "Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt,"
1993, chromogenic development print,
courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York and
Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Keith Haring, "Untitled (Tarp)," 1983,
acrylic on vinyl, 120 x 120 inches.
Just when you thought you’d seen this stuff so much you could never look at it again, we are visited with a look back at the 1980s when bad boys and marginal street taggers were refashioned into art stars by the likes of astute and profiteering dealers like Mary Boone. Works here by Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Jean Michel Basquiat offer no surprises. But this insight stays with us: when you let a fad rest a bit and return to these--Haring and Basquiat particularly--with the benefit of time, it’s clear that they were inventive and raucous in a way that earned the attention they got. The most interesting are works by Basquiat, where his standard language of squiggles, crowns, lettering and frenetic energy are convincingly authentic, innocent and pained again--when we look backwards after having long since moved on to other art commodities (Ikon Gallery, Santa Monica).

Anyone with an interest in the sources and origins of modernism or with an interest in artist books should see “Inventing Kindergarten.” The beauty of the interwoven, perforated, chine colle collaged and folded paper books dating from the late 19th century would be enough of a draw on their own. Add to those the astounding little three dimensional model-making kits (from cork and metal agglomerates to peas and wood constellations) makes it a truly fascinating exhibition. The history of Friedrich Froebel’s teaching system as an experimental didactic forum for the imagination is also surprising to read about in the exhibition brochure.

Untitled kindergarten book project.

These books are diminutive delights, not to mention prequels to all things minimal (Art Center, Williamson Gallery, Pasadena).

Robert Irwin, "Untitled," 1967-68, acrylic lacquer on
formed acrylic plastic, 46 (Height) in. Sold.

“Sculpture from The Sixties” revisits a seminal and internationally influential period in the history of Southern California art. During the 1960s, there was a West coast art boom. Sculptors in particular, not bogged down by ingrained traditions or East coast dialectical dictates, felt free to respond to their own cultural and political landscapes. The ethereal phenomenon of Western light, a booming car culture and the “fetish finishes” of industrial designs became unique sources of inspiration. Robert Irwin, Larry Bell and Craig Kauffman, for instance, were among the Ferus Gallery artists who produced signature works. They carried the stamp of “newness,” and were instrumental in their use of acrylic lacquers. Their reflective transparent surfaces embodied a formal minimalist sensibility.
Particularly notable here is Kauffman’s vibrant blue, vacuum-formed “bubble;” Larry Bell’s glass square with mirrored ellipses; and Robert Irwin’s trademark translucent disc. Irwin’s use of transparency and cast shadows in particular became a prescient symbol of Southern California’s light and space movement. Acrylic glazes and lacquers animated the unconventional pottery of Ken Price and Peter Voulkos. Noteworthy also is John Mason’s large ceramic sculpture, “Geometric Series, Dark” (Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica).

There is no more lasting American myth, after profit that is, than the manifest destiny of land and U.S. culture’s complex relation to it. American Impressionists from Mary Cassatt on dealt with man in nature and man with nature long before the conceptual artists and photographers came along. Conquering the wilderness, a respect for taking and taming land (at all costs) is part of the American legacy, as grand narrative and very real tactic. In a show titled American Visions some very fine if less well known jewels are drawn out of the Young Collection coffers to show an earlier ages’ images of travel, leisure and man in relation to land.

Winslow Homer , "Four Fishwives," 1881, watercolor on paper.
Photo by Susan Einstein
Included alongside Cassatt are works by Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, and the ever mysterious Maurice Prendergast (Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont).