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October, 2007

Imagine a DJ Hall in the Bay Area.  Imagine the same remarkable ability to take paint and make a canvas look like a lush color photo, bathed in old flash camera gradients of light and shadow. Stanley Goldstein is a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute and a pretty astute realist who like Hall favors scenes from the good life. We glimpse very intimate family moments as if we were voyeurs, through windows or shuttered doors that toss intense illumination across surfaces and space. The artist's family and friends gather around a pool, children scurry, people relax in comfortable upper middle class environs. His paint application can be broad and flat, as well as stippled and pointillist. In Goldstein's capturing the effects of changing light and time, in his calling up the undeniable lure of that fading ideal of the content bourgeoisie family--he aligns himself with the tradition of Impressionism (George Billis Gallery, Culver City).

Stanley Goldstein, "Girl Party,"
2007, oil on linen, 59 x 45".

Flower paintings are not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of cutting edge art, but Charlene Liu’s detailed mixed media paintings of flora and fauna--with just a bit of fairy-tale mixed in--strike a chord. She employs a rich palette, displays masterful technique, and each work becomes a mini-universe of rich possibility. Clean botanical sketches and realistic renderings of birds merge seamlessly with images of fanciful blossoms and, yes, surreal bunnies (Taylor de Cordoba, Culver City).

Charlene Liu, "Mad Bloom," 2007, 30 x 30".

Teo Gonzalez shows paintings large and small, some on paper, others on clay board. The Spanish artist repeats the pattern built from loose ovals containing an orb inside. In large deep blue expanses, this shape becomes a million stars in space; in smaller works, the transparent shapes lined in loose clusters of aquamarine become a mass of teeny sea life or cells and their nuclei seen under a microscope (d.e.n. Contemporary art, Culver City).

Teo Gonzalez, "Untitled #465" (detail), 2007.

Lana Shuttleworth, "Where will they go?," 2007, plasticized polyvinyl chloride, 4 x 8'.

Even viewers who realize that Lana Shuttleworth uses recycled safety cones in the construction of her work experience an “ah ha” moment when they come face to face with the artist’s 4’ x 8’ polyvinyl redo of an autumn landscape, “Where Will They Go?” Not only has Shttleworth chosen the perfect material to underlay her concerns for the environment,
but the young L. A. artist has also magically transformed scuffs and blemishes worn into the materials she recycles to simulate objects and places far afield from their origin. Shuttleworth’s larger bas reliefs, including the scruffy, haunting “Will They Encounter Others of Their Kind?” add a layer of complexity missing in the more obvious, three dimensional sculptures including the “tire” in “How will They Get There?” Still, it is wittily reconstituted, as it after all the tire that is the perpetrator of cone damage and destruction (Bandini Art, Culver City).

You’ve probably stumbled across them: the buffed up roots of non-native Ficus trees buckling the sidewalk in their tenacious search for nourishment. They fight for space in a hostile environment, pushing up concrete curbs and sidewalks in the four large C prints by Ruben Ochoa that frame the outer lower corners of his installation "A Recurring Amalgamation," They allude to the size and the positions of the trees. Sculpted tree stumps are interspersed with a cockeyed lineup of nearly a dozen cement covered wood palettes and exposed rebar, making reference to the urban environment and the actual relationship of the trees to the sidewalks.

Ruben Ochoa, "Infracted Expansion," 2007,
eight wood pallets, bonding cement, wire
mesh, burlap, rebar, dimensions variable.

The project room nearby has been impregnated by a modular lacing of rebar, tied to form linear patterns stacked floor to ceiling and wall to wall, suggesting an architectural substructure that references laborers, unseen and unsung by those who will dance on the polished floors that will inevitably rise above them (Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Culver City).

William Pope.L, "APHOV," still, 2006-2007, digital video; TRT: 15:36.
William Pope.L's disturbing installation is made up of three separate but related works. In the center of the darkened space is "The Grove," a garden of potted palm trees that have been painted white. The trees do not stand tall and feel as though they have weathered some kind of disaster. Furthermore, because they are presented in the dark and because their bark has been painted, the trees will gradually begin to die. Along the perimeter of the Grove Pope.L has installed a corridor with three doors through which viewers can look but not enter. There is a collection of files and a floor covered with what appears to be blood. Toward the back of the gallery a living room has been set up--a couch, some chairs, and a rug are situated in front of a projection screen where a man wearing a Donald Rumsfeld mask begins to weep.
As he does so, tears of blood pour down his face and onto his shirt and the table below. The artificial setting of this video is exploited by Pope.L., and its explicitly political tone adds to the show’s decidedly pessimistic world view (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).

What might be called the "Patchett Papers," the "Smart Art Press" constitutes the transgressive and intelligent discourse/distribution mill that has operated almost since Track 16 launched with the opening of Bergamot Station. The archival memorabila--objects, books, multiples, drawings--form the crux of a "looking back through time" show called Middle School. This is a chance to see seminal in- and out-of-print books, and to be reminded of Smart Art Press projects like the sponsoring of Jim Shaw's "Dreams," a monumental collection of pencil doodles chronicling the artist's unfolding, unedited, innermost fears and festishes. Also on view will be recaps of related video/film works such as the Manuel Ocampo biopic "God is My Co-Pilot," and the tongue in cheek war farce "In Smog and Thunder" by Sandow Birk. This is a great overview of dominant conceptual voices in L.A. art over the last dozen years (Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica).

Jim Shaw, cover detail "Everything Must Go," 1999.

Brian Mains, "Music of Life," 2005-06,
acrylic on canvas, 66 x 66".
New paintings by Brian Mains that are no less than Baroque for their almost religious themes, metaphors, and in the intensity of the visuals so perfectly painted. The show is  called "Purification and Renewal," and one typical work shows, coiled inside a bramble of arrows, hands cropped at their limp wrists, and feet shown only to the ankle (fragments  straight out of 15th century crucifixion scenes). The crown of thorns motifs and the perfect barren landscapes receding in the distance are all done with the skill of a Renaissance panel painter. However, you definitely get that this is not about religious  redemption in the hereafter, but instead makes use of the classical format to make us think about salvation in the here and now, thus giving the work a political rather than religious tone (Hunsaker/Schlesinger Fine Art, Santa Monica).

Veronika Kellndorfer, a Berlin based artist who was a resident at Villa Aurora in L.A. during 2003, is interested in the modernist architecture that populates the Los Angeles landscape, specifically buildings by Rudolph Schindler, Charles and Ray Eames, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Kellndorfer photographed details of many of these buildings and then had those images enlarged up to large-scale and silkscreened to glass. The monumental images lean against the gallery walls to informally become part of the gallery architecture. They are mostly back and white, yet areas of color are allowed to highlight a plant or to suggest the colors of the L.A. landscape, tones of brown and green. The images veer from seductive to confrontational, suggesting both the fragility and the stability of architecture (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

Veronika Kellndorfer, "Succulent Screen",
2007, 3 panel silk-screen print on glass, overall
dimensions, 113 1/2 x 138 1/4 inches

Chris Jordan, "Cans Seurat," 2007,
archival inkjet print, 60x92".
Chris Jordan's digitally produced photographic images are meant to be an American Self Portrait. He gathers statistics--for example the number of plastic beverage bottles used in the US every five minutes, or the number of commercial flights in the US every eight hours--which he illustrates through the depiction of a pattern of the actual object or activity. Thus the two examples yield a landscape of plastic bottles (two million), or a sky filled with 11,000 jet trails. “Cans Seraut” depicts 106,000 aluminum cans (the number used in the US every 30 seconds), which he arranges by color to become George Seurat's iconic "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."
Jordan’s images are both visually compelling and socially relevant. Their large size provides and analogue of scale by which to grasp the statistic (Paul Kopeikin Gallery, West Hollywood).

The three artists included in this strong grouping each represent a distinctive take on Portraits, something so seemingly impossible that this alone makes the show worth a look. A standout image comes from the one artist whose portraits are of people. Dan McCleary’s “R and R” is a depiction of two men standing a mere foot or so apart, one holding up a camera to take a snapshot of his companion. A wall mounted landscape of the open road centered between the two stimulates musings on the invisible LCD display and the stories that may be contained in the camera’s memory as well as that of the two men.  George Stoll’s painted sculpture presents banal still life objects--plastic tumblers, bars of Ivory soap--contextualized here to provoke us to regard them as possessing an inner humanity.  Lucas Reiner’s pathetic little trees and exploding fireworks are associated with geographical locations in the city via their titles, though nothing in his paintings carries even a hint of site specific background detail, so coyly raising as their central question whether place imparts identity to these objects, or vice versa (Carl Berg Gallery, West Hollywood).

Dan McLeary, "R and R," 2007, oil on canvas.

The half-naked and fashionably skinny young men in Scott Treleaven’s moody and histrionic new collages and watercolor paintings alternately lounge about or engage in opaque rituals (a series of “Witchcraft Through the Ages” make this obsession quite clear). The figures and landscapes, rendered in sensual blacks and half tones, are adorned with flurries of primary color, as intricate gold-leafed flowers flutter through the majority of pieces like swarms of fireflies in the dark (Marc Selwyn Fine Art, West Hollywood).

Scott Treleaven, "witchcraft through the ages (x),"
2007, watercolor, ink and paper, 12.25 x 11".

Allison Miller's fanciful paintings have the look of oversized doodles. They are dramatic works with lines and shapes that float above stongly contrasting fields of color. The compositions flow with lyrical ease, and reference the paintings of Jonathan Lasker as well as Monique Prieto's earlier work. In some images Miller maintains an abstract distance, keeping the eye focused on the interplay among formal and geometric elements; other works want to engage in freer associations and hint at narratives. There is a basic engagement with the eye by an artist whose aesthetic identity is still just gathering itself (Acme, West Hollywood).

Allison Miller, "Dinneratthepalms," 2007, oil
and acrylic on canvas over panel, 48 x 60".

Peter Krasnow, "K-20," 1975, oil
on board, 23 5/8 x 19 3/4".
Peter Krasnow valiantly evolved toward an avant garde aesthetic during the 1930s, when experimentation was still almost nil here. Krasnow left a legacy of early academic figuration (the sophistication of which makes the abstractions on view all the more potent), which he developed gradually into accumulations of geometries similar to Cubism, but on an intimate and viewer- accessible.  This mini overview emphasizes early lithography inspired by his move to California, and late abstract totems in wood--some small enough to hold, but so large in emotional scale you imagine them in architectural space. “Man/Woman” from 1934 really looks like the inspiration for Pollock’s “He/She,” with its interpenetrated shapes, some soft and lyrical, others hard and muscular. Though we tend to avoid these oppositions today, this was pioneering work in America, where such Jungian sexual inquiries and non-imagist forms tended to elicit frowns, if not outright hostility (Tobey C. Moss Gallery, West Hollywood).

Intelligent design be damned. Peter Zokosky brings his substantial drafting and painting gifts to bear on portraits of primates. This is not not silly or ironic, nor a spoof on the long tradition of idealized likenesses intended to make aristocratic, political or military buffoons look great as they posed in finery. Here, monkeys posed against rich, dark backgrounds look back at us with a weird amount of prescient intelligence: They inquire, they stand firm, and they do very human and psychological things with only the suggestion of posture. The contours of their bodies, the textures of their fur--not easy to execute in paint--are captured in full National Geographic splendor. But instead of coming across as endangered species or zoo curiosities, there is this other vibe which Zokosky somehow manages to produce, something emotional, tender and alert in these frontally faced primates. We begin to wonder if maybe Darwin got the direction of evolution all wrong--these creatures as Zokosky "re-visions" them for us are more dignified than many homo sapiens out there (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City).

Peter Zokosky, "Harmen," 2007,
oil on panel, 17" x 13 1/4".

Fantasy collides with an advanced sort of science fair aesthetic in John Espinosa’s pair of striking sculptures. Brilliant yellow beams zigzag like cartoon lighting from the eyes of three lavender fawns in “Seconds After, Years Later,” which actually advances a related work, “Frozen Upon Entry,” done five years ago a few seconds forward in narrative time.  Now we are braced to see where this one goes come 2012. “This Wreckage (The Long Count)” presents giant mammoth tusks inside which is sheltered a hidden universe of galactic space. Espinosa is surely a fan of old fashioned space opera and comic books, but wins us over here by the sheer commitment to images that are utterly disparate, yet relate quite clearly to one another (Sandroni.Rey, Culver City).

John Espinosa, "This Wreckage
(The Long Count)" (detail), 2007.

Kyoung Ha Yoo’s ebullient paintings are a fusion of echoing dualities--East and West, old and new, design and art. Intricate India ink patterns lace across swaths of color that shift blithely in and out, forming loose abstractions of nature and interiors. This quixotic surface is overlaid with quirky buttons of fluorescent paint—the paint is hand prepared by the artist--in the same candy-land palette of bright pastels (LMan Gallery, Downtown).

Kyoung Ha Yoo, "Recycle," 30 x 40".

Cosima Von Bonin, "Hundeschule / Obedience School," installation, 2004.
Photo: Michael Strassburger and Dejan Saric.
German conceptual and installation artist Cosima Von Bonin’s  "Roger and Out," her first solo show in the US, includes a dizzying array of sound and prop installations using materials and ideas from popular and vernacular culture, performance  art, video music, and film costuming. It is all brought together with an eerie Teutonic sense of horror and humor. “Roger and Out” is designed to explore cultural myths, how we live in and make meaning from social relationships in an environment awash with media, not to mention conflicting demands on roles and psyches. Though global themes are here, there is a weird way in which this work is utterly personal as well. It taps the artist's unique, oft fractured, oft sublime reality as mother, thinker, artist, friend, German.
To make this shockingly fine work Von Bonin assumes the roles of producer, director, curator, DJ, set director, and collaborator. Her practice is an analogue to the types of frame changes, identity negotiations, psychic and creative positioning that modern life demands of all of us. Rather than one theme or subtext that one can point to, there are a dozen or so channels spliced together, as in the work "Obedience School," where humanoid figures in military costumes sport heads of frighteningly stupid looking hounds. They lay about with props both menacing as weapons and tragically benign as stuffed doggy toys. A more powerful if indirect investigation into the fragility of will, free choice, power and indeed war hasn't come around in awhile (The Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA], Downtown).

The numerous watercolors on paper and works on canvas by Rebecca Hamm forces the viewer to take in the small, overlooked details of nature and the landscape which she enlarges to over-life size scale. Her works balance abstraction with attentive detail to realism. Her organic, root-like forms create a mesmerizing web-like effect (Gallery 57 Underground, Pomona).

Rebecca Hamm, "Sierra Hut 1," 2007.

In a bit of irony, here in sun drenched Southern California, Ephemeral: Explorations in Light presents light as a transient and expressive medium.  This small survey presents installations and sculptures by Inaki Bonillas (Mexico City), Elaine Buckholtz (San Francisco), Thomas Glassford (Mexico City), Won Ju Lim (Los Angeles), and C.E.B. Reas (also, Los Angeles). The elusive subject of their interest is variously italicized for dramatic effect, used to evoke memory and the past, and explored solely for its formal and sensory proprieties. The show’s highlight is Lim’s “Elysian Fields,” an installation built from projected light and images, together with sculptural forms built on the galleries’ floor. Lim creates a cityscape both inviting and foreboding, with moving images of smoke arising from buildings (Claremont Museum of Art, Claremont).

Won Ju Lim, "Elysian Field," plexiglas, foam core board, DVD and
still image projections and lamps, variable dimensions, 2001.