Polish and authority are words that come to mind sifting through the new shows this month. Starting with Jasper Johns’ towering presence, local artists such as Alison Van Pelt and Scott Siedman display growing mastery and confidence in their new work, Tula Telfair’s landscapes refresh our sense of the “wow” in painting, and Tom Holland, who we haven’t seen in L.A. much lately, brings his colorful and joyful way with geometry down from the Bay Area. Louis Hoch’s evocative cinemural marks a quarter century since he first trailblazed the use of projected imagery in a public environment. In the main L.A. city-run public gallery two exhibitions carry on a public dialogue between artist and writer, and a group of painters who articulate political observations via the subject of landscape. Also affecting the public side of art right now is the controversy of L.A. Mayor Hahn’s vision for the Cultural Affairs Department. One week it was leaked that the city agency might be eliminated, but that raised such an outcry that the following week Hahn assured the public that Cultural Affairs would remain—though perhaps with an altered mandate to help out more with matters of cultural tourism (and less in other areas to be named). Sounds like the Mayor wants the department to bring in its own matching funds (the 250 or so cultural organizations that currently receive grants from the city, you know what we mean!). If this isn’t exactly a milestone we cultural folk would be inclined to celebrate, we can certainly raise a toast to the recent 25th anniversaries marked by the Tobey C. Moss Gallery (in December), Robert Berman Gallery, and Christopher Grimes Gallery (both current). 1979 was a good year, but these committed and successful galleries would have had no idea just how far art in SoCal was to progress by 2004.

Here are your links to some of the upcoming Preview articles that we will feature during April, followed by more about some of the upcoming month's highlights:

Telfair’s large-scale paintings are a powerful demonstration of the spirit and power of the landscape adapted to a new century. Her vast panoramas are composed with very low horizons dominated by vast, cloud filled skies. Telfair wants to call attention to the primacy of formal harmony, as is indicated by her titles. There is also a flinty intellectual distancing: no places are named (and no wonder, these are invented locations), and spiritual rhetoric is eschewed (
at Forum, West Hollywood).

The color pencil drawings executed on gessoed canvas that comprise Browne’s exhibition titled “Mind Time” are the deliberate product of self-induced and active daydreaming. Composed of an immense number of small circles, the built up primary forms are extremely lovely and sensitive in their appearance. They both facilitate and welcome associative play (
at Newspace, Hollywood).

In his puzzle-like compilations of images Siqueiros uses cultural signifiers to challenge pre-formed associations and seeks to unify an equivalence of opposites. Although the references in his varied works must be plowed through for layers of meaning, they are geared, also, toward evoking emotion. It is a haunting vision held captive by geometry (
at L2kontemporary, Downtown).

Four Latin American artists express their inner vision using four different sculptural materials. Peruvian Margarita Checa works in wood, Puerto Rican Susana Espinosa sculpts in clay, Panamanian Isabel de Obaldia molds forms from glass, and Mexican Patricia Waisburd (known as "Peschel") constructs with paper. Each explores the human figure in a show of physical authority and spiritual presence (
at the Museum of Latin American Art [MoLAA], Long Beach).

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Based on but not of--
Two quite distinct exhibitions are engaging and provide impressive high points. City Dialogues pair nine artists and writers to create works that relate and interweave, but maintain a degree of poetic distance. The Political Landscape is really two shows. Santa Barbara’s Oak Group, a group of about a dozen plein air painters, glorify the open landscape of their area so as to implicitly argue against encroachment. The other dozen artists take various turns at reinventing the aesthetic approach to the landscape subject. Examples: Karen Kitchell gets up close with garden weeds; Constance Mallinson offers grand panoramic sweeps of appropriated clichés that add up to something quite exotic; Bruce Everett depicts what he sees from the air such that the landscape meets a topographical image about in the middle (
at Barnsdall Park, Hollywood). . . . The four artists comprising ReModeling: New Ideas on the Form and Function of Architectural Models alter the equation of architectural shows that typically inform us about the generation of buildings built, or at least intended to be built. Leo Saul Berk, Barabara Bestor (apparently the only actual architect here), Taft Green and David Shafer place primary emphasis on the model itself, using architecture more as motif than end product. While sculpture that strongly simulates the familiar or banal is hardly revolutionary, the results here favor the sensuality of the eye over the mentality of the engineer (at CSU Long Beach, Long Beach). . . .

The modernist spirit is alive and well--
True to form, Bay Area lyrical abstractionist Tom Holland shows shaped abstract paintings in unusually dense materials able to be built up to an inch or more thickness. Abstract shapes arch, point and build via rich colors on surfaces like aluminum or epoxy. The scale is large and the effect is a cross between Samuel Delaunay and Frank Stella. It’s very enjoyable if at times too sweet (
at Jan Baum, West Hollywood). . . . Rich unusual reds, near pinks, lime greens move in early deKooning/Ab Ex swirls over the canvases of Flavio Garciandia; just when you think he is all about random gesture, he lines pigments up into graceful but ordered grids. Here flowing paint declares that classical modernist painting is still alive and well. The native of Caibarién, Cuba is well known in his home country, and at age 50 we are seeing him here for the first time (at Couturier, West Hollywood). . . . Since the 1950s Jasper Johns has regularly produced paintings of numbers, which is the exclusive focus of this exhibition. As in his use of other banal sources, this was in part a reductive strategy, and also was reflective of his desire to make work counter to the then prevalent abstract expressionism early in his career. By restricting his subject matter he found himself that much freer to explore the possibilities of mark making as well as how ordinary signifiers could be recast as rich aesthetic objects (at LACMA, West Hollywood). . . .

Is minimalism really minimalist anymore?--
German photographer Michael Schnabel’s large-format images of zoo interiors in Germany and Switzerland resonate with a minimalist beauty, which oddly emphasizes their mid-century modernist architecture. The ambiguity between visual formalism and implied meaning is what lends them their aesthetic power (
at Bank, Downtown). . . . White on White includes twenty two artists each of whom has contributed a work that is mostly, well, white. Although the works for the most part are monochromatic, they jump off the wall (or the floor in certain cases, like David McDonald's wonderful sculpture) because of the richness of their surfaces. The majority of the works are paintings that layer or juxtapose shades of the non-color of choice here (at Patricia Faure, Santa Monica). . . . Many of William Anastasi’s works can be seen in relation to Miminalist strategies. The work here spans the artist’s 30-year career, and also reflects shared affinities with the work of John Cage in terms of its reliance on chance. Other themes evident here view include studies of sound, movement, measurement and time (at SolwayJones, West Hollywood). . . .

The theatre of art--
Black and white tone poems by Ray Carofano are drippingly romantic. Whether found in any variety of landscape settings, or in the face of his portrait subjects drama heightened by darkroom enhanced inner glow adds up to a powerful visual buzz. Given the decade’s worth of worth that this show surveys we can begin to see what this adds up to (
at El Camino College, South Bay). . . . Small dioramas by Dwora Fried are theatrical spaces whose narratives always, thank goodness, go off track. You would expect performers to strut and pose within these little “sets,” but then salt shakers and vertical wedges may take center stage, instead setting off formal relationships better suited to open up your imagination than allowing you to sit back and be a mere spectator (at A Shenere Velt, West Los Angeles). . . . Two years ago a cycle of poems by piano soloist Alfred Brendel were published under the title “Devils Pageant,” and New York artist George Nama memorably provided etchings and sculpture to accompany the poetry. They collaborate once again on the opposite side of the celestial flow chart with “Thirteen Angels.” Nama’s etchings and sculptures suggestively reference the subjects of Brendel’s poems employing a vocabulary of organic gestural abstraction that are playfully evocative but basically stand on their own. Selections from the earlier series are included (at Jack Rutberg, West Hollywood). . . .

Now this is a new realism--
It’s been twenty-five years since Louis Hock first projected video in a public setting (Krysztof Wodiczko take note). The basic idea of the current “Southern California: a cinemural” is to convey a portrait of the region using a panoply of characteristic still images that float in and out of the visual field. They may range from the clichéd to the unfamiliar, but as they pile up you gain an increasingly refined and integrated mental picture (
at San Diego Mesa College, San Diego). . . . At first blush Steven Criqui is showing photographs of tacky commercial urban (as in L.A.) buildings and storefronts. Then you pick up visual punch lines, such as the yellow and red graphic signage becoming graphic flames on the roof of “Consumers Liquor,” which in turn appear as the real thing at sidewalk level. Digital manipulation and hand painting to block in color areas or tweak the details turn the images into a treasure hunt for the unexpected (at Susanne Vielmetter, Culver City). . . .

Referencing, but not celebrating, history--
Andrew Moore examines existence and memory in a society (Russian) weathering change. This remarkably sensitive collection of eleven large chromogenic prints taken in Russia addresses issues that go back at least as far as those raised in Anton Chekhov’s "The Cherry Orchard." Nancy Monk obsessively covers photographic images (printed on canvas) with decorative elements that cover the entire composition. Numerous small works cover the gallery walls. Most of the imagery begins as a portrait, yet the sitters’ features quickly become obliterated by Monk’s overlay of a patterned motif (
at Craig Krull, Santa Monica). . . . Classical antiquity provides a fig leaf of authority when Scott Siedman is really conveying in his pictures that authority be damned. There is a polemic, and a pretty interesting one, running at the mouth throughout his work, but it is particularly nice to see how his technical and pictorial, well, authority has been growing. Contemporaries such as David Ligare and Sandow Birk have shown the way, and it is possible that Siedman will earn his place within an elite circle. Our hope is that he keep it pungent (at Circle Elephant, Silver Lake). . . . Only the latest artist to attempt an artful interpretation of the Jewish Haggadah, Avner Moriah (together with calligrapher Izzy Pludwinski) draws on historial sources as various as Bronze Age figurines and the medieval illuminated manuscript. Circular compositional formats play with the idea of repetition of the life cycle as well as a history that conveys warmth but an ominous warning as well (at University of Judaism, West Los Angeles). . . .

The power of fragility--
No matter how many times we see Alison Van Pelt's oil on paper paintings of phantom faces and oddly erotic bodies, we do not tire of them. That is because Van Pelt has mastered laying down densely worked painted marks that ape the look and feel of fading charcoal images, so fragile and ephemeral they look as if the wind is about to blow them away. We strain to find and hold evaporating images that are ever fleeting and somehow always slightly sexy (
at Chac-Mool, West Hollywood). . . . Tony Marsh shows his remarkable earthenware vessels, worked and fired into paper thin containers, sometimes glazed with lush colors, often just left to look blanched and clay-like. These are often perforated with thousands of holes to exaggerate their fragility, hold evocative shapes that are nothing in particular but suggest rotund fruits, peppers, bones, primordial eggs. Together the holders and contents suggest so many complex emotions related to containment, time and memory (at Frank Lloyd, Santa Monica). . . .

Strength in numbers--
The work in Syzygy: The Human Remix, the fifth annual Art in Motion exhibition, was selected through an open call as well as by invitation. This year’s exhibition is beautifully installed. Installations by Lev Manovich, Bruce Yonemoto, Lew Baldwin, Bryan Jackson and Marisa Alexander-Clarke are given ample space to engage each on their own terms. Each of these artist’s work pushes the limit of the technology and strike plenty of high notes (
at the Armory Center, Pasadena). . . . In a three artist show, Bobbie Mandel’s depictions of intricate arrangements of stones serve as metaphors for imprisonment and freedom, permanence, endurance and transience. Laura Siqueiros employs scenarios taking place in medical offices or paintings based on medical literature and posters to address issues of racism, and fear of the unknown. Lilla Hangay presents oil pastels executed on irregular wooden forms. Little humanoids, often resembling embryos in pod-like constructs, are drawn in a heavy linear style that draws on European expressionism (at OCCCA, Orange County). . . .

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