Return to Articles


February, 2010

Diana Thater,Josephine, Diana, and Greg,
35mm production still, Between Science and
Magic, 2010, looped 16mm film, sound.
Diana Thater appears in concurrent museum exhibitions. Best known for her multi-projection video installations, “Between Science and Magic” is Thater’s new 16 mm film project. This dual film projection depicts magician Greg Wilson pulling a rabbit out of a hat over and over again. Shot from multiple vantage points in a studio setting, the film was subsequently projected and reshot at the Los Angeles Theatre, one of Downtown’s most ornate 1930s-era movie theaters. As in all Thater’s work, there is more there than what one sees. This film alludes to a passage in “The Savage Mind” by Claude Levi-Strauss that suggests, “art lies half-way between scientific knowledge and mythical or magical thought.” The references to illusions and to films within her work gives viewers a lot to think about as they watch the rabbit pulled again and again from the hat (Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica).
Located on opposite sides of a darkened corridor, in modestly sized, windowless rooms, the sublimely beautiful patterns, colors, textures and movements of tigers and butterflies captured in Thater’s video installations play off against the stark bleakness of her technological support systems. Harsh fluorescent lights, lacking the discipline of Dan Flavin’s minimalist constructions, languish askew against gallery walls and floors, connected to power sources by electric cords and plugs. A projector aimed at the large screen in “Perfect Devotion Two” (2005) occupies the seat of a chair, exactly where a viewer would position herself to best see the imagery looping onscreen. The chair mimics the fixed camera position so prominent in structural films of the 1960’s, while also referencing a prop commonly used by wild animal trainers in the circus. The more narrative presentation of the two exhibited here, this video zooms in and out, over and alongside three tigers from Tippy Hedren’s sanctuary as they coax an oversized red ball over a field of green grass towards a child sized pool of water. Across the hall, images of bits and parts of the wings that flutter across the six flat screens of video monitors distributed on the floor in “Butterflies” (2008) are not fully visible until the viewer stands directly over them. The fragmentation and hidden beauty bound up in Thater’s response to an invitation to address threats to the Monarch’s winter home in Mexico lure the viewer into becoming a participant in this unique orchestration of sculptural elements (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara).

- Jody Zellen/Diane Calder

Diane Bennett, “Tricolor Blackbird,”
oil on salvaged metal retablo, 26 x 19"

Louise Hibbert and Sarah Parker-Eaton,
“Dicoryne Box,” English sycamore, silver, 24 ct gold,
western myall, texture paste and inks.

Reflections of the natural world and ecological concerns are manifest in an additional selection of four artists. Dianne Bennett is devoted to the re-use of found objects, salvaging materials such as old metal signs. Her painted Retablos are inspired by a sacred Latin American folk art tradition. Literally translated to mean “behind the altar,” the originals were intended to promote faith and belief. Bennett uses iconic symbols, text and visual imagery to question what in nature we hold sacred enough to sustain. Images of birds, trees, plants and endangered wildlife, such as the tri-color blackbird, allude to the need for land conservation. Louise Hibbert and Sara Parker-Eaton, in collaboration, re-create microscopic forms of organisms such as plankton and seeds. Hibbert uses sycamore and reclaimed pine, carving forms with a lathe and applying airbrushed inks and resins. The final touches come fromParker-Eaton’s application of silver and gold. Through a process dependent on the skill of each artist, the original materials are transformed into small objects of great finesse. In contrast, Shane M. Keena’s large multi-fired earthenware forms dazzle with their luminosity. An avid scuba diver, his forms reflect the influence of undersea life. They appear as strange, somehow familiar primordial creatures. Yet, they are hybrids that have been derived purely from the artist’s imagination. All four artists demonstrate how closely they observe the phenomena of nature, and in so doing convey an environmental message.

Years ago, the eccentric visionary, Reverend Howard Finster, claiming to have a direct line to the divine, predicted that young Kevin Wallace was destined to become involved in the arts. Today Wallace’s exhibition The Outsiders features work by Reverend Finster and half a dozen others whose primal gestures and direct forms of self-expression fascinate the current director of the Beatrice Wood Center. Finster’s intriguing hand lettered injunctions on cut wood simulate subjects such as Elvis and Coca Cola bottles, decked out with colors as bright as those printed on cereal boxes sweetened to captivate young children. More harmonious is the limited palette Mose Tolliver managed to coax out of any cans of house paint available to him. Also amazing are the birds, faces and flower imagery created by compulsive vernacular artist Sybil Gibson, who began her career at age 55, creating designs with tempera on brown paper grocery bags (Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, Ventura County).

- Elenore Welles / DC

Lisa Adams, "Convocation," 2009, oil on panel, 72 x 120".

Curated by Andi Campognone, the group show “Edenisitic Divergence” examines the role of an ever-changing landscape through the critical and diverse lens of female artists Lisa Adams, Kimber Berry, Hollis Cooper, and Rebecca Niederlander. As the title suggests, the art’s visual rhetoric suggests a departure from an idyllic world and an entrance into one tainted by pollution, global warming, and destruction. Upon entering the exhibition space the viewer is consumed by a feeling of other worldliness as Niederlander’s contorted wire sculptures that drape the museum space like a nether world jungle - the wires twist, contort and nearly collapse onto themselves as they dangle from the exposed ceiling. Berry’s installation of shiny, technicolor paint creeps off the walls and along the floor. But perhaps the most arresting works come from Adams, whose large scale panels “Convocation” and “Given that All Things are Considered Equal” are the largest works the artist has ever created. The overlapping paint swatches weave a visual tapestry, which plays with the figurative renditions of aviary and plant life. On the surface Adams’ works are beautiful, delicate, and provoke a sense of wonder. Each is consumed with nature, but while “Convocation” is quite cinematic, “Given that All Things” presents a bird, fish and lily pad in their own, suddenly more symbolic space. The driving narrative in her works may be that life is driven to persist despite the destruction imparted by the hand of man and decay of nature, but the vision of life will change from one moment to the next (Riverside Art Museum, Riverside).

- A. Moret

Bay Area artist Lizbeth Eva Rosoff is the rare conceptual artist who is not afraid of the big bad art object. Riffing on Chinese companies who pepper art-related inboxes with emails soliciting painting “any subject,” Rosoff took them up on their offer – she sent in photos of officially banned imagery within the People’s Republic. Not so shockingly, the capitalists quickly sent back faithful reproductions of the Tiananmen square protests and post-massacre desolation. Paintings of internet porn, officially banned in China, the Panchen Lama, Tibetan repression and other atrocities were happily sent stateside to another satisfied customer. When it came to the Falun Gong, though, Rossoff had to go through a few paint by numbers outfits before someone would ship their reproductions of the banned group’s leader and its symbols (ironically or not, one favored icon is a backward yellow swastika). To get around customs, the

Lizbeth Eva Rosoff, “Tiananmen Square Bus,”
2009, commissioned oil on canvas.
painting manufacturers put a Mona Lisa re-do on top of the pile in the crate – and gallery owner Charlie James assured me it was indeed checked, but no digging down to the Falun Gong pictures occurred. Without the back-story, this is an exhibit of newspaper photos as paintings, so to liven it up, Rosoff takes a clever swipe at the growing legion of Chinese ultra-nationalists: She reproduces pint sized ancient Chinese terra cotta tomb guards from the graves of First Emperor Qin Shi Huang with one twist: Bart Simpson, Shrek and Ronald McDonald heads. Conceived and exhibited in America, but made in China. Who’s the joke on this time? (Charlie James Gallery, Chinatown)

- Mat Gleason

Kyung Jeon, “little persons, big steps” (detail), 2009, pencil, watercolor on rice paper on canvas, 60x78 1/4".

Sometimes an artist hits on a method of representation that is as inspiring as it is cute. So much animation art fails at this perfect balance that it is easy to forget that great artists have used animation successfully for centuries. The offbeat recluse Henry Darger based much of his art on the animation of his day, and found that spot in illustration where the cartoon transcends the expression of the simplistic. Combine Darger’s infantilism with Hieronymous Bosch’s cartoon paradise (or hell) and you have the drawn paintings of Kyung Jeon. Her little underwear people are endearing in a cute, sentimental manner as well as repellent to our moral sensitivities. The paradise of the almost naked, an Eden with enough shame to cover the privates – it feels like an escape from the demands of conceptual theory and formalist dogma. The work is satisfying in the combination of humor and unease, useful as a pleasurable escape as well as a litmus on the sensibilities of a visiting neighbor were you to hang it over your couch with the same shameless sense of abandon that populates the life-loving Lilliputians of Jeon’s art (Sabina Lee Gallery, Chinatown).

- MG

Yong Deok Lee

Because Yong Deok Lee’s work depends so heavily on trompe l’oeil, it is impossible to understand from a photograph. What look like paintings are actually painted reverse sculptures. In each of his works a detailed figure is gouged and carved into a large slab of something like plaster – and then painted, often monochromatically or in the strange hues of a photographic negative. The subject is caught in moments of ordinary activity: walking, sitting, standing, praying, and often portrayed against a flat plane of color or simple geometric grid. The work bespeaks of an incredible contemporary loneliness (PYO Gallery, Downtown).

- Jeannie R. Lee

Michele O’Marah, "Amber" from “A Girl’s Gotta Do What
A Girl’s Gotta Do,” 2009, digital c-print, 20 x 16".
Everything comes together in Michele O’Marah’s show, “A Girl’s Gotta Do What a Girl’s Gotta Do.” Leaning heavily on 90’s nostalgia, three video installations recreate the stickiest un-feminist moments of Pamela Anderson Lee’s “Barb Wire” and hilariously O’Marah manages to use today’s tits and ass to interrogate yesterday’s tits and ass. Not only is the acting spot on (think of Spike Jonz’s Beastie Boys music video for Sabotage), but the re-installed set pieces lend a funhouse appeal to the whole production. Extra credit for how wonderfully the soundtrack of the sex and the crime-thriller scene play off of Cameo’s hit song, “Word Up.” O’Marah is the real revolutionary here (Kathryn Brennan Gallery @ Cottage Home, Chinatown).

Although some of Kim Ye’s latex sculptures are actually bodysuits meant to be worn in performance by two separate but connected people, even the bodysuits seem to refer to something other-than-human. They hang limply from the ceiling of the gallery, and are filled with numerous egg-like sacs. Aptly described as “gynecological mutation (umbilical artifact, displaced placenta, intestinal catastrophe),” Eva Hesse-like sacs in a grid bulge out from the wall, and rope-y yellowing tubes lie tangled on the floor.

Kim Ye
Throughout, there are recorded sounds and rhythmic inflations. Curiously, the recorded heartbeat does not provoke one to think of fetuses so much as sci-fi associations of invasion of the body snatchers (Deborah Martin Gallery, Downtown).


Tim Ebner, installation view, 2010, each acrylic on canvas
mounted on plywood with multi media, mounted on
found, modified metal wall bracket.
Animals have long been the subject of Tim Ebner’s paintings. In his current exhibition Ebner does away with with the confines of the rectangle. These paintings of fish that are as much sculptures as they are paintings. Each fish stands away from the wall, casting intricate shadows that in effect make the array into an installation. Ebner’s use of large gestural brushwork and found objects gives each fish a distinct personality. Also on view are collages of horses by C. K. Wilde made from found objects. They are a perfect complement to Ebner’s fish (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica).

- JZ

Bas Jan Ader disappeared at sea in 1975, leaving behind an archive of works that have been shown in Los Angeles and abroad since his untimely death, and no matter what the selection the work holds up well. On view here are studies for, as well as the actual 1974 neon sculpture Piet Niet, an obvious homage to Mondrian. There is also a sampling of some of Ader’s best known photographic works. In the East gallery is a showing of “In Search of the Miraculous,” a 1975 work comprised of an audio track of sea shanties sung by a choir of nine singers that accompanies a projection of 80 slides (Patrick Painter Gallery, Santa Monica).

- JZ

Bas Jan Ader, “In Search of the Miraculous,”
1975, photograph with audio.

A portrait of the late Christopher Isherwood by Don Bachardy is mounted behind the reception desk of the gallery, positioned as if to award the esteemed writer the best vantage point for checking out the earliest, most flattering images in his younger partner’s 50-year self portrait retrospective. Barchardy – famed for his life drawings of artists, musicians, film stars, etc. – often stepped in front of the mirror himself when sitters canceled appointments at the last minute. The intensity of his gaze tightens as hairstyles change, the years go by and his mouth turns downward. As he ages, Bachardy moves from tighter, more formal, detailed pen and ink drawings towards vibrant, open handed, vivid, acrylic on paper portraits that drop all inessentials. Paired with Bachardy’s self portraits are Mark Swope’s large black and white archival pigment print photographs of the Los Angeles River.

Don Bachardy, “Self Portrait,” acrylic on paper, 29 x 23”.
The clouds and stained riverbed in “Metrolink Overpass from North Broadway Bridge” ironically echo delicate grey washes in Bachardy’s early works. However, Swope makes no attempt to glamorize his subject matter. His superbly focused, wide-angle views of the Los Angeles River’s paved, urban channels and the power lines, bridges and various other conduits that run alongside it are a riveting tribute to our man-altered landscape (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).

- DC

Imi Knoebel, “Fishing Blue III,” acrylic on
aluminum, 118 1/2 x 118 1/2 x 6 1/4”.

This knockout show, “3 x 3: Minimalist Sculpture and Painting,” answers the question, What can happen when three celebrated minimalist sculptors and three equally proficient painters contribute work to an exhibition designated to encourage experimentation and interaction between two and three dimensional works of art positioned within the architectural confines of a gallery? Each artist, (sculptors, Richard Deacon, Joel Shapiro and Peter Shelton, and painters Imi Knoebel, Robert Mangold and Jason Martin), contributes two or three works. Gallery room sizes vary and decisions involving “what goes where” are skewed towards the unexpected and provocative. Color plays a big role, especially in Martin’s sensually textured, “to die for” intense aquamarine blue paintings. Imi Knoebel comes closest to incorporating both two and three-dimensional elements into the painted surface and aluminum bars cavorting over “Fishing Blue 111.” The galvanized skin of Deacon’s angular “Mutual” reflects colors from the paintings that surround it.
Shapiro’s forest green “untitled, 2008-2009,” hung high on the wall, seems activated by the vivid pull of Shelton’s bulging, biomorphic “redpocket” and the dark interior of his “blackslot,” both coated in dull grey exteriors that play off the polished cement floor beneath their suspended bulk. Mangold’s gracefully curved pencil trails traverse gently painted rectangular modules, adding a touch of subtlety to the mix (L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice).

- DC

Joshua Podoll’s latest body of work is his largest and its most merged: that is to say, signatures and elements of past paintings are now tossed into expressionistic yet controlled mélanges. Based on his meditation practice(s), the segments of each painting may be seen as disparate trails of thought as they float in and out of his, and now our, consciousness. Airbrushed passages - Stella-esque black-and-white stripes; triangles in a circle or square – hover alongside Josef Albers multiple squares and painterly gestures in oil. And then there are the Hans Hoffman, hard-edged rectangles (the references are unavoidable, so let’s get them out of the way). It may or may not be painting with a series of quotation marks; that’s a quick and easy way out. Less like Hoffman and the push-pull aesthetic, Podoll’s paintings invite meditative contemplation. Of course, in theory, which paintings don’t? Here, though, they’re tuned to just that wavelength: the flatter, trippier, masked areas are part of a larger, contemporary vocabulary made for heavier visual, and therefore contemplative, vibrations (Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica).

- MS

Joshua Podoll, “Spanish Masters,” 2010,
oil and acrylic on canvas, 78 x 58”.

Tom LaDuke, “Auto Destruct,” 2009,
oil and acrylic on canvas over panel, 60 x 80”.

Tom LaDuke’s new paintings and sculptures grace this longtime Santa Monica gallery’s new Culver City location. His enigmatic works are layered compositions drawn from multiple sources and mixed together on the paintings’ surface. In each work there is a scene from a film, the reflection of the studio seen when watching the film, over which La Duke has gesturally painted fragments from a well known painting. The sources might only be apparent to real art and film connoisseurs, however the visual effects are stunning. LaDuke fuses personal with universal meaning through the language of popular media and art history. In addition to the paintings, LaDuke has also created small sculptures that replicate a plastic bag, a feather, a hanging leaf as well as a spider’s web in exacting detail. While the relationship between the sculptures and the paintings is tenuous, both bodies of work are a delight on their own (Angles Gallery, Culver City).

- JZ

“Boy” is the raucous and art-bending debut of SSION, pronounced “shun,” aka Cody Critcheloe, a cult-pop music star, and more recently fine artist, from Kansas City. With an emphasis on installation and inter-media/multi-media presentation, it’s a barrage of visual and audio information that harkens back to Keith Haring and the Palladium/early club scene days. In addition to a group of youth-savvy graphite drawings in the smaller room, the main space is a flood of wall works accompanied by a field of floor pillows for viewing SSION’s music videos, such as ‘Street Jizz,’ along with the feature-length film of the show’s title. SSION’s aesthetic mixes campy with raunchy in a way that just feels zeitgeisty - or at least what we suspect those of the self-centered, exhibitionist, me-generation bent are up to these days. It’s a sensibility that speaks to a blog/YouTube indoctrinated culture (indeed, SSION’s catalogue is well-represented on the site). SSION’s work has a similar feel to that of video-art star Ryan Trecartin, if far more pop-ish and mainstream. At the least, they both harness the tendencies of youths nursed on video and texting, tech savvy to the core, and brash and confident enough to tell you all about it (Peres Projects, Culver City).

- MS

SSION, “Boy,” still from movie trailer.

Daniel Dove, “Exploded View,” 2010, oil on canvas, 50 x 68”.

In his second solo exhibition here Daniel Dove continues to make post-apocalyptic landscape paintings. These large scale works combine abstract and realistic elements. Structures and objects that appear to be undergoing a metamorphosis. The scenes depict the recognizable--an airplane body, a muscle car, a dilapidated structure--that meld with an ambiguous background. His layering of bold color and intricate patterns is drawn from both the observable world and his imagination; this is what gives the paintings their uniqueness. Dove is a skilled painter whose ability to capture the aura of a post-industrial wasteland gives his paintings a feeling of both nostalgia and immediacy (Cherry and Martin, Culver City).

- JZ

Shay Bredimus has worked as a tattoo artist and is able to translate the details of that skill as well as the specifics of the materials into refined works on paper. Bredimus layers black and white tattoo inks on both sides of a vellum-like substrate (Duralar) creating large-scale portraits that have a ghost-like transparency. His subjects – both men and women – fill the wall-sized paper, emerging from the splatters and drips of the ink. Also on view are paintings by Kenny Harris made during a month in Istanbul. Harris captures interiors and exteriors in exacting detail, paying particular attention to how light falls on the landscape (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City).

- JZ

Shay Bredimus, "In Yuko's Room,"
2009, tattoo ink and mixed media
on drafting film, 70 x 40".

Noah Davis, “Isis,” 2009, oil and acrylic
on linen with rabbit-skin glue, 48 x 48”.

Noah Davis’ current exhibition derives its name from the late Richard Brautigan’s apocalyptic novel “In Watermelon Sugar.” Like Brautigan, Davis’ vision adheres to no specific narrative, but touches on a wide array of themes and ideas where the individual is seen as a maverick thinker, isolated and sometimes confused yet continually redefining personal boundaries for himself amid the dysfunctional clamor of the surrounding world. Works like “What We Did to the Elephant In The Room” depict two men flaying an elephant, the creature’s body splayed open, revealing the verdant skin underneath. If this is a scene from Brautigan’s novel, the image is powerful in its own right. The men appear oddly cool and disconnected, absorbed in the work at hand.

Their expressions betray nothing and one man’s face is completely obscured. Other works, like “1984,” are more overtly poignant. A boy sits on the edge of a bed, his face obscured by a weirdly ominous smiling mask, while his shadow appears almost like an autonomous, disfigured figure looming behind him (Roberts & Tilton, Culver City).

- Eve Wood

J. David Carlson and Michael Dotson demonstrate a shared sphere of influence. Dotson’s meticulous rendering of early video game fantasies demonstrate the artist’s keen ability to remove his hand entirely from his works so as to fool his viewers into thinking that the rigid and exact lines that occupy his canvases were generated from a computer. The use of hyper primary colors and two-dimensional visions of video game scenes speaks to a nostalgia found in Dotson’s past and a consideration for his vision of the future. Carlson’s mixed media sculptures are inspired by the artist’s own love for toys. They play with their ability to humorously address issues like the temporariness of landscapes. The “playscapes” are bona fide erector sets that occupy children’s imaginations, yet however intricate they are they can just as easily be destroyed (Lawrence Asher Gallery, Miracle Mile).

- AM

Michael Dotson, “Dream House #2,”
2008, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 48”.

Thomas Lanigan Schmidt, “Purple Box Chapel,”
ca. 1970-73, mixed media, 21 x 11 x 14”.
Curated by Emma Gray, “You Can Heal Your Life!” brings a well-timed nod to healing and renewal after a dismal 2009. The title is taken from the 1980’s Louise Hay classic that was a landmark in the evolution of the modern self-help movement, but here it’s mainly just a title - more a leaping off point than a doctrine. The mezzanine/loft of the gallery features the most archetypal healing-centric work: Thomas Lanigan Schmidt’s “Purple Box Chapel” is a mini-monumental orgy of craft and homemade church aesthetics; Jose Alvarez’s psychedelic (but not retro-) collage is an art-as-self-cleansing with a hint of the visionary; and the late Sister Corita’s serigraphs, though modest in scale, gamely deliver their share of vintage-70’s text art while still feeling fresh. In the main space, Josh Podoll’s painterly contemplations interact intriguingly with Jen Liu’s screening room video, “New Dawn Fades,” each amalgamating disparate trains of thought and meditation practices. So go get healed! Ironically, this will be Circus Gallery’s last show (Circus Gallery, West Hollywood).

- MS

Kevin Hanley’s current exhibition “Seams Like Sometimes” utilizes representation, whether an alphabet letter or a woman’s face, as a means of investigating a looser, more conceptual agenda, albeit under the umbrella of formalism. Hanley works with photographs snapped using nothing more elaborate than a camera phone and printed digitally. These are often cut into diagonal stripes. Elements drawn from sources as varied as the alphabet and fashion design lend these so-called wall coverings a feeling that a rhythm is being established, but none ever really takes over. They expand and contract with the fickle vagaries of nature, just as a face can, by shifting ever so slightly, moving from one expression to the next, but in a calculated rather than an organic manner. Hanley has never been one to shy away from humor, and a comedy text piece placed at the main entrance and restroom doors of the gallery appears at first to be inconsequential, the leavings of a stand-up comic’s skewed mindset. But one realizes that these pieces of texts are actively working to prevent the viewer from moving forward through and ultimately out of the space, stealing time by the simple fact of their being there (ACME, West Hollywood).

Kevin Hanley

Terry Turrell, “Matinee,”
oil and enamel on wood, 38 x 29”.

The figure reigns throughout a four artist show featuring the latest work by Linda Christensen, Marianne Kolb, Inez Storer and Terry Turrell. Turrell has distinguished himself as a sculptor of whimsical figures that cross lines between narration and reality, with narrative overshadowing figuration. Now he introduces paintings that show children or child-like adults placed in surreal settings reminiscent of playgrounds or city streets. Often bearing pensive expressions, these figures and faces are at odds with their surroundings and yet in possession of them. As they are being studied, it appears as if they scrutinize you in return, as in “Matinee.” Christensen is an extraordinarily prolific painter with a corresponding number of hits and misses. This batch has several hits, like “Was Blue House,” which centers on a female figure placed in abstracted backgrounds suggesting exotic locales. What sets her apart from the many nouveau Bay Area figurative painters is consistent mastery of color and, if not too hurried and out of control, her brushwork. Relative newcomer (at least to Orange County) Marianne Kolb is self-taught, and the Swiss-born painter imbues her shadowy figures, either men or women, with a palpable sense of isolation.
While such obvious emotion often appears manufactured, one understands somehow that Kolb is basically painting herself in many guises. Eschewing brushes in favor of her hands, she places her figures just slightly off-center, against a monochromatic but textured background. What makes each painting fascinating is that it becomes a mirror to one’s own self-perception. For Inez Storer, the figure is secondary to narrative. While use of words and disjointed sentences have can quickly disintegrate into cliché, Storer avoids such pratfalls by evoking mystery and, yes, a sense of confusion. That leaves viewers free to use her paintings as a path to their own inner worlds (Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Orange County).

- Daniella Walsh

America Martin, “Girl with Dog,”
oil and acrylic on canvas, 31 x 39”.

As a Columbian born artist, educated in Los Angeles and Boston and exhibited on both coasts, it is not surprising that America Martin incorporates different genres into her work. At first glance, her two-dimensional paintings of family members, presented as large oil and acrylic paintings on raw canvas, and also as small drawings, many with sharp black lines and broad dabs of color, are mainstream contemporary. A deeper look reveals notes of primitive, indigenous and Latin American influences, along with classical, figurative and cubist references. Wide-eyed adult women, children, animals, sombreros and serape type clothing bridge worlds that are on the one hand playful and childlike, but adult and confrontational on the other hand. These extroverted works imbue ordinary human scenes with dignity, depth and sometimes in-your-face clarity. Titles such as “Woman with Orange Ladder,” “Girl Holding Dog,” “Swimmer Boy”, and “Margaret by the Sea” describe the content; the intent is to be direct and occasionally provocative. As the artist says, “There is no choosing this life. An artist paints because she must” (JoAnne Artman Gallery, Orange County).

- Liz Goldner

Pasadena-based Ray Turner has hung a cache of expressionist treasures in an exhibit of more than 100 12 x 12 inch oil on glass portraits of friends, relatives and people who simply have interesting heads. These rich, thickly, colorfully painted full-face portraits depict a range of humanity, including female, male, old, young, bald, longhaired, black and white. Most subjects appear in repose, only a few are smiling, while the collection as whole presents a counterpoint to the normal complimentary portraits hung on many living room walls. Turner’s works are so texturally painted with shadows and angles in a rainbow of colors that the surfaces take on three-dimensional depth, portraying nuances of personalities. Van Gogh is a source of inspiration here, and Turner’s subjects are generally ordinary people rather than celebrities. Yet, one portrait of gallery co-owner Diane Nelson attracted many viewers. A few remarked that Nelson is better looking in person, reminding us that these are not vanity portraits but expressions of the artist’s perceptions of his subjects (Scape Gallery, Orange County).

- LG

Ray Turner