Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle with a Rose, 1911, oil on canvas,
21 5/8 x 18 1/2 in. (55 x 47 cm), Musée d'Orsay, Paris, photo © 2009 Musée d'Orsay, Paris, by Hervé Lewandowski.
While Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) is known primarily as a master of French Impressionism, paintings from the final three decades of his life do not fit into that genre. These voluptuous females, often nude or scantily attired, and occasionally in decorative costumes, look back to figurative work works of earlier masters, including Peter Paul Rubens. As Claudia Einecke, curator of “Renoir in the 20th Century” writes, “We were also taught that. . . around 1880, Renoir abandoned Impressionism and subsequently ‘lost it’. . . And thus more than thirty years of highly idiosyncratic artistic production by Renoir. . . were written out of history in one fell swoop.” This expansive exhibition of 80 paintings, sculptures and drawings by Renoir, along with complementary paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Aristide Maillol and Pierre Bonnard, attempts to reverse that misunderstanding, arguing that rather than simply backtracking Renoir helped shape the early Modernism movement. It brings to light a Renoir who combined the high art of figurative drawing with luminous, often dissolving brushstrokes of Impressionism, particularly in the backgrounds. This banquet of young, full figured females are bathing, “Bather on a Rock;” reading, “Two Girls Reading;” playing musical instruments, “Young Girls at the Piano;” tending to children, “Gabrielle and Jean;” and posing languorously in harem type costumes in patterned rooms, “The Concert.” The latter influenced the themes and patterns by Matisse. There are several lush landscapes painted from Renoir’s home in the south of France, a stark self-portrait, and a few playful paintings of children, including “The White Pierrot” and “The Clown.” Remarkably, Renoir suffered from rheumatoid arthritis that made merely holding his brush a struggle during much of this prolific, creative period. The show explains in didactics and artworks that the artist transcended his pain through the creation of his own fusion of the earlier abandoned Impressionism and his later embrace of a classical ideal (Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA], Miracle Mile).
- Liz Goldner
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The central conundrum for the anthropologist — as the scientist becomes more enmeshed in culture observed, the more they alter the preexisting interplay — has been an important underlying interest of Miller Updegraff’s painting. When Updegraff’s ongoing investigations in the microcosms of masculine culture presented similar issues, he turned his focus on the past. In the case of his current show he turns his attetion to Weimar-era Germany and the polysexualities of the mostly British writers and photographers of the scene. The gallery space has been reconfigured into a darkened labyrinth, with a central room hosting a suite of wrestlers in the ring. Appropriated from photographic documentation, Updegraff’s large scale stained and sparkling canvases both engage and distance the viewer from the scenes depicted, allowing us to project ourselves into the private spaces depicted. At the same time we are reminded that critical distance can also be an impassable barrier (Michael Benevento Gallery, West Hollywood).
- Michael Buitron
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Melissa Cooke, “This is What you Wanted (Self Portrait with Onions),” 2009, graphite on paper, 50 x 38”.
Melissa Cooke is a young artist
based in M
adison Wisconsin who is an incredibly talented draftsman. In her solo debut she presents larger than life sized graphite on paper self portraits, acting out and performing for the camera. Cooke dresses up to investigate the many sides of self, and thus her work is akin to that of Cindy Sherman. She play
s with gender and stereotypes as she expresses different moods and vulnerabilities in each drawing. The drawings themselves are richly textured and confrontational. Included is a short video that documents Cooke's process and further explains her role as a performer. This is a rare talent who, at a young age, has already developed a sophisticated body of work (Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City).
- Jody Zellen
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Helen K. Garber, “Courtyard,” 2009, archival digital print on canvas, 16 x 22”.
Three perceptive photographers turn their faces away from the garish light of day to evoke the magic mystery of the night. Bill Sosin employs depth of field like a jazz musician whose mastery of basics allows his music to soar. He focuses on raindrops pelting his car’s windshield, layering these beautifully articulated, sparkling gems over backgrounds of colorful soft focus splashes of light emanating from movie marquees, traffic signals and other barely identifiable sources. In contrast, Helen K. Garber purposefully keeps elements in her black and white archival digital diptychs in focus, encouraging careful analysis of details in her witty study of similarities and disparities between famed Venice, Italy and the product of Abbot Kinney’s dreams, Venice, CA. Garber utilizes piazzas, canals, arches, and even a boat named “Fantasy” in her engaging, poetic series. Elements in a stark local church are positioned to echo those of a chapel in Italy, but Garber includes a car in the shot, precluding any possibility of confusion. The suggestion of danger lurking in Garber’s photos of narrow passageways is amplified in Ginny Mangrum’s depictions of light emanating from interiors of locations that are normally closed up at night. Mangrum enhances the voyeuristic quality of her work in “Shop,” which includes two headless mannequins (DNJ Gallery, Miracle Mile).
- Diane Calder
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Ed Templeton, “The Seconds Pass (Saint Mark Parish Hall),” 2010, black and white photographs with painting, 12 3/8 x 52”.
A frieze of photographs by Ed Templeton--skater, painter, and now photographer, surrounds the walls of the gallery. At first glance they appear to be casual snapshots, images that have been sequenced together for no apparent reason. Some are colorized, drawn on and painted. Others are repeated and torn. They are often shot from the car, en route to skateboard contests. Who is on the street, what they are wearing and what signs they hold become an archive of a specific time and place, and a document of ordinary life in the 20th and 21st centuries. While none of the individual photographs stand out as 'great,' together they become a comprehensive document. Shot all over the world, generic street life becomes universal. Each framed sequence contains four to five images and reads like a chapter in this book of life on the go (Roberts & Tilton, Culver City).
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Recognized as a practitioner of the color process known as cabro printing, a difficult process requiring the layer of cayen, magenta, and yellow pigment separations, the cabro photographs of Richard C. Miller depict scenes of his young daughter Linda blowing a bubble, and a dotting housewife with a plaid apron tending to her child. Included in the series are nudes, women in decadent hats, and images of Marilyn Monroe when she was still known as a Norma Jean Dougherty. During 1948-1953 Miller’s black and white photographs of the Hollywood Freeway documented the construction of a monolithic steel highway set against the backdrop of a modest and emerging Los Angeles. The black and white photographs document not only the construction of our current freeway system but guaranteed that the automobile would become a fixture in urban life. Perhaps the most unique portion of the exhibit is a glass box containing Miller’s business cards, the model release forms for Marilyn Monroe, and glass jars containing what’s left of his original pigments (Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica).
- A. Moret
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Judy Fiskin, “Guided Tour,” 2010, film still.
The small images of nondescript places from series including “Military Architecture,” “Long Beach,” “Desert,” and “San Bernardino” are signature Judy Fiskin works. Since the mid-1970's she crisscrossed the Los Angles area making photographs of its vernacular image. These banal pictures, resonate way beyond their tiny scale. Each image is surrounded by a black border and sits in the middle of a white page, exquisitely framed. Individual images may be quite humorous or at times cutting. They almost never include people, so Los Angeles appears to be a desolate, depopulated place. Each image is a precious find, something to be savored and looked upon over and over again. Fiskin stopped making photographs in the 1990s and turned to making video. Her latest is an 11 minute "Guided Tour," a compilation of snippets from docent talks juxtaposed with images of both public art and traditional as well as contemporary works within museum walls. This ironic look at how art is explained uses non-art contexts to illustrate that what we see and what we hear about what we have seen often do not correspond (Angles Gallery, Culver City).
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Jack Pierson, “ <
Spring,” 2010, metal, wood and plastic, 52 x 53 1/2 x 5”.
Jack Pierson’s current photographic images — printed large and extra large — brings to mind the fold-out posters that were sometimes included with LP records. Folded, unfolded, then pinned to the wall, the images mix blurred and darkened interiors with empty landscapes that evoke the high desert near Pierson’s home in Joshua Tree, and the periphery of tourist zones of the Nile Valley. His image of the Las Vegas airport emphasizes the remnants of a razed building where a few remaining palms struggle among the weeds. Other than a lone nude posed near a rocky seascape, Pierson’s current oeuvre is devoid of his iconic young men. Perhaps “some other spring” is one that foreshadows a coming autumn, one that is both nostalgic and melancholy — familiar Pierson territory. Outside the gallery hangs the show’s most optimistic work, one of the artist’s familiar amalgams of letterforms — fully electrified — casting a neon glow on Santa Monica Boulevard (Regen Projects, West Hollywood).
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Alex Katz, “Sunset 2," 2006, oil on board, 9 x 12", at Greenfield Sacks Gallery. © Alex Katz, licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
It is a pleasure to see these landscapes and smaller works by Alex Katz, who is largely known for his portraits. They are imbued with the same stillness and inquiry into form and color that informs his more familiar works. While not entirely escaping representation, the daubs of paint and etched lines are looser – and call more attention to themselves as materials. In “Daytona Beach (1-5)” (1996) a simple painted gesture progresses through a series of five aquatints of deepening hues. The first two plates are repeated, creating a moment of pause, before the brushstroke begins to increase in force, capturing the swelling intensity of an Atlantic wave (Greenfield Sacks Gallery, Santa Monica).
- Jeannie R. Lee
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We’ve come a long way since the auto-animatronic version of Abraham Lincoln first stood up at Disneyland and laboriously delivered his measured “Great Moments” address. “Lover’s,” one of seven video sculptures in Oliver Michaels’ newest show, is a single channel video edition of a black bronze bust of Lincoln. Instead of awkwardly reciting patriotic praises, Michaels’ Lincoln seamlessly mouths an inappropriate monologue that includes a male version of Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons.” All of Michaels’ projections, derived from sculptures pictured on museum postcards (thus the title of the exhibition), voice unexpected appropriations. Included in this cacophonous collection are a disheveled lion, two monkeys whose heads barely nod, a pair of ceramic figures supporting a gigantic artichoke, four white marble busts that could be Roman but interact like a Greek chorus, etc. Most are positioned on wooden stands or tables designed to enhance the illusion of three dimensionality, constructed from basic, unvarnished materials. All trail behind them tangles of electric wires and the technical equipment required to make them seem to move and speak. But whether we can make out the dialogues/monologues or not is almost beside the point.
Michaels also shows a series of intriguing inkjet prints of mysterious and unknown making: the busts, mini-statues and figurines here are both watercolor-y and yet at the same time photographic, reminiscent of Vik Muniz’s photographs of chocolate sauce and other reflective liquids. The prints are a divergent but also technically innovative accompaniment to their more imposing, animated brethren. They disintegrate into splotches, adding to the overall sense of defectiveness and fallibility that hangs over the show (Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica).
- DC / Michael Shaw
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Mark Grotjahn, “Untitled (Face 742),” 2007, oil on cardboard mounted on linen, 60 x 50”.
“Seven Faces” showcases an altogether separate oeuvre from Mark Grotjahn’s now familiar “butterfly” series. Whereas the latter are hard-edged, the “Faces” are much looser and more expressionistic, with hints of figuration - mainly eyes, but also assorted arrows and a mouth or two. The oil paint is built up, smudged and cross-hatched to the point of a mosaic-like thickness and density, and indeed they do have an air of secular reliquaries. That Grotjahn is able to switch gears this confidently from the “butterfly” – and even occasional other painting tangents - is a testament to his mastery. Of the 12 paintings included, only one or two don’t quite pull their weight (the natural light of day is less forgiving than the spotlights of opening night). The decision to paint on cardboard mounted onto stretched linen may strike painters and non-painters alike as rather odd – one that was clearly made for its surface resistance factor – and one that may be an acquired taste, or at least take some getting used to (Blum & Poe, Culver City).
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Mark Schoening, “Sculpture Installation View,” 2009, mixed media, dimensions vary.
Referencing an imagined state of being where life persists in a perfectly imperfect state, “Cloudcuckooland” by Mark Schoening is both a state of mind and place of being. The typography chosen for “Cloudcuckooland” is distantly similar to the strewn letters of the Hollywood sign perched on a lonely hill. Schoening’s panels combine layers of acrylic ink, carbon transfer and resin that explode with chunks of machinery veiled by a smoke cloud. A series of 30 black and white panels titled “Balletic Disintegration” reads like a stop motion film in which each frame explands with action and is then contained by the resin. A native to the east coast, Schoening recently moved to Los Angeles, which inspired a free-form color series complete with neon shades and glitter. To view Schoening’s work is a richly textured and near cinematic experience because the multiple layers of color and painterly renderings unleash endless visual possibilities. They provide glimpses into a world seen through a Technicolor kaleidoscope - utterly fantastical, engaging, and illuminating (Blythe Projects, Culver City).
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Andreas Gursky, “Ocean II,” 2010, chromogenic print, 126 1/2 x 98”.
Andreas Gursky, he of the first “million-dollar photograph,” has finally touched down in L.A. with both a new body of work as well as a sample of self-selected efforts dating back to 1989. The centerpiece, however, is a selection of five mammoth (up to 12-feet) photographs of the ocean (we’re not told which) from satellite images. Considering Gursky’s history of elaborate shoot set-ups, it’s surprising to consider that this “Ocean” series has put most of the emphasis on the development process. As with his older work, all the photos are C-prints (and all in editions of 6, even the one from 1989), a fact that leaves many scratching their heads as to how he executes such ambitiously-sized prints. One could never accuse the satellites that provided these images of not doing their jobs - in fact, the quality of the details in the “Ocean” prints, upon close inspection, offer watercolor-like nuances. There is a graininess to the older offerings – such high-density studies as a Madonna concert or the Chicago Board of Trade in mid-session. Still, no photographer has ever been more forceful with the audacity of his scale, nor cooler towards the subjects filling those planes (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).
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Ilene Segalove, “Pinkie,” 1979, photograph. Courtesy of Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles.
Making humor the central point of an exhibition can be a recipe for failure. It was long since observed that there is nothing duller than an analysis of what makes something funny. “Don’t Make Me Laugh” thankfully forgoes the high minded approach in favor of searching for the laughter catalyzed by the art. Among the 16 artists the flavors are varied from the dry (Erika Rothenberg) to the slapstick (Mahara Sinclaire), from the zany played straight (Jeffrey Vallance) to the straight zinger (Doug Harvey). Walter Askin and the late Walter Gabrielson built careers using humor (often with a satirical or bitter edge) as an aesthetic pillar. If others such as Pierre Picot and Richard Pettibone have had their moments, as curated into this show, hitting our funnybone is clearly not their mission. If Masami Teraoka engaged in good natured cultural satire early in is career, the work included here goes back decades because he long since assumed a very different tone. And William Wegman teamed with his Weimar hounds to create some of contemporary art’s most successful stand-up - so much so that it crossed over into the mainstream culture. It’s been hard to tell if, ever since, Wegman has exploited his good fortune or done his level best to run away from it. Probably a bit of each. Aside from the range of fun, this show is a nice blend of obvious candidates and some inclusions coming out of left field. The laughs are here, but try to keep your eyes open for something more to come away with more. Chances are you’ll find it (L.A. Valley College Art Gallery, Valley).
- Bill Lasarow
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“Curiosities of the Curio” is an outstanding small delight of a group show. The exhibit is an ensemble cast of quirky pieces resembling both the scale and eccentricity of the curio cabinet, a tradition of personal and eccentric display dating from the 16th century. Carolie Parker’s map pages mounted on plaster have a sculptural rigor straight out of arte povera. Her twist is adding geopolitical concerns. The countries she has torn from the globe are countries at war that, as she observed in conversation, “are for some reason always colored pink on the map.” Tuan Phan paints mapped surface streets and interstate highways on human forms whose torsos morph into an intense tangle of wires before their heads can develop. Susan Sironi alters flower arranging books by physically removing most of each photo so as to reveal a composite flower arrangement made of one small aspect of each photograph in the book. Denise Kraemer uses melted glass application techniques to mimic sign painting in two raw yet exquisite small wallworks. Like the curio cabinets of yore, the rewards here lie in the details of this expertly crafted work. A-List gallery names like Moira Hahn, Sant Khalsa and Sandow Birk contribute small works in their signature styles that add a heavyweight art world presence (Andi Capogonone Projects, Pomona).
- Mat Gleason
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Jim Morphesis, “Rose Series 132,” 2008, oil and mixed media on paper, 25 x 21”.
Holly Boruck’s bone-white, gessoed ceramic tendrils are exquisitely enhanced with delicate drawings that fan out onto the gallery wall. They extend their reach in the direction of the darker, more overtly sexual rhythms of figures in Milo Reice’s jazzy polyptych dancing nearby, setting the tempo for guest curator Betty Brown’s “Brilliant Paintings, Amazing Ceramics,” an eclectic presentation of lively, diverse works by fifteen California artists. Jim Morphesis’ paintings, centered on his sensual handling of the captivating power of roses, incorporate striking tactile qualities as well as an engagement with materials. This take is also embedded in more abstract works by painters including Sandra Rowe and Blandine Saint-Oyant. Keiko Fukazawa’s installation of calligraphic wall works and air brushed, highly saturated matt glazed offerings of towers of stuffed beanie babies, are staged to simulate traditional Chinese rock collections. Also among the amazing are Steve Horn’s lusciously glazed eccentric sculptures, Patsy Cox’s playful modular accretions and Jenny Calaba’s enchanting meld of jewel-like glass globules supported by finger-like projections of roughly surfaced clay (Sylvia White Gallery, Ventura).
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The University Art Museum at Cal State University, Long Beach, began as a small but significant gallery in 1973--one that influenced, informed, taught and enlightened both those on campus and in the community. With a modest but discerning budget, it began to acquire a permanent collection of works on paper. Fast-forward 37 years. Today UAM boasts one of the finest university collections in the Western U.S., and an exhibition history that has introduced many emerging talents to the art world. The current exhibit spotlights the museum's permanent collection, but with a twist. "Pieces of 9: Reframing the Collection" allows each member of UAM's nine-member staff to curate a portion of the show. Hence the title. As an approach to the diversity of aesthetic opinion along with artistic expression it yields some fascinating results.
Director Christopher Scoates chose a photomontage by Martha Rosler that raises challenging, socio-political questions. "Lounging Woman" depicts a beautiful woman lying head-down, diagonally across the picture frame. Behind her are various soldiers in combat attire amidst the devastation of war. Four giant pads of paper attached to the wall invite visitors to write comments. And do they ever! Was the female forced into prostitution to survive, or was she raped? Was she a good-time party girl, or was she killed in the conflict? Associate director Ilee Kaplan's contribution is a selection of works that depict suffering as the prime human condition. Artists include Jose Clemente Orozco, Eugenia Vargas, Leonard Baskin and Ruth Bernhard. Sarah Vinci (Public Relations Director) traces the evolution of the nude in Western art through small reproductions of famous works that begin with the "Venus of Willendorf" (2,000 BCE), and end with Lucien Freud (2003). By contrast, assistant curator Elizabeth Hanson assembles a captivating wall of landscape photographs by Marilyn Bridges, Robert Lasser, Mark Ruwedel, and Catherine Wagner. In stark, black and white imagery, visitors can see how virgin land around the world has been drastically changed by human activity. I was surprised to find a 1974 Robert Rauschenberg lithograph/collage on silk; but there it was, thanks to educational curator Brian Trimble. Created on two pieces of fabric, "Preview" features vintage cars on one 80 inch piece, and a female nude on the other.
And that's just for starters. As life changes, art changes. For the past few years, UAM's mission has been to organize and present informative exhibitions that blur the boundaries between visual art, design, technology, music, and contemporary culture (CSU Long Beach, University Art Museum, Long Beach).
- Shirle Gottlieb
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Like the recent “Sites of Latin American Abstraction”, “Changing the Focus: Latin American Photography 1990-2005,” curated by Idurre Alonso, moves our understanding of Latin American art away from earlier stereotypes. Works stand out because they offer new and intimately personal takes on familiar themes. Ronald Morán (El Salvador) builds tranquil domestic settings (a child’s bedroom, a kitchen), covers them with pure white cotton and then photographs them. The results resemble snow-covered landscapes while bearing disturbing messages about lurking dangers of domestic violence and child abuse. All is not as it seems, it’s best to keep looking below surfaces. Rochelle Costi (Brazil) veers in an opposite direction by photographing apartment interiors that are colorfully messy and yet inviting, much like abodes of near pseudo destitute bohemians. The settings imply that happiness is a state of mind rather than opulence of place. In “The Eyes of Gutete Emerita” Alfredo Jaar (Chile) memorably combines image and text. The young woman of the title has seen and/or experienced unspeakable horrors (the text suggests as much) of war. You will walk away shaken. Daniela Rossell (Mexico) bases her series on the excesses of the rich as expressed in women’s appearance and the overwrought interiors they inhabit. Luis Molina Pantin’s images of comically hybrid Euro-Latin architecture, as commissioned by Columbia’s narco aristocracy, convey that blood money and taste do not mix. A counterpoint is Peruvian photographer Natalia Iguiñiz’s portraits of what appear to be domestic servants and their (female) employers. Expressions and poses suggests sharp divisions between classes and yet, at least in one instance, there appears to be a transcending emotional bond. Luis González’ “Lottery” series of sepia-toned portraits feeds into the above scenarios by suggesting that one’s station in life is primarily determined by the luck of the draw. Anyone with even scant familiarity with recent news will make a connection between Pantin’s castles and Milagros de la Torre’s (Peru) stark black and white close-up shots of knives and other objects recovered from violent crime scenes. Overwrought sacrilegious clunkers like Nelson Garrido’s (Venezuela) “The Crucifixion” and “The Assassination of Baby Jesus,” are deftly off-set by the humor of Daniela Edburg’s “Death by Tupperware,” (better clean that fridge) and “Death by Canderel,” depicting a teenager overdosed on artificial sweetener. In its entirety, the show is a mixed enterprise, ranging from the sublime to the absurd but, as the saying goes, there’s never a dull moment. Vexing perhaps, but never dull (Museum of Latin American Art [MoLAA], Long Beach).
- Daniella Walsh
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“The OsCene 2010” is a biennial-style survey of paintings, sculpture, photography and installations in a variety of styles, techniques and media by 50 local artists from San Diego to San Pedro. For those familiar with the California Biennial at the nearby Orange County Museum of Art, the OsCene might appear correspondingly tepid with its many scenes of Orange County domesticity. Yet a closer look reveals quietly experimental works that expose the often hidden, darker sides of southern California life. “The Pack Rat” by Gina Genis is a glaring exposé of this contradiction. Photographed surreptitiously from the outside of a Leisure World (retirement community) apartment at night, it reveals a domestic setting, talked about but seldom seen. An elderly man sits at a table surrounded by floor to ceiling junk and garbage, including empty potato chip cans, a notice from the DMV, newspapers, cardboard boxes, old electronic equipment, albums, plastic bins and bottles and artificial flowers. More serene is Andrew Printer’s “Rob and Ted,” a depiction of two men enjoying breakfast in a well-appointed kitchen; both are stark naked. “Overland # 7” by Fran Siegel is a hybrid painting/low relief sculpture of Los Angeles just above LAX. The colored pencil, ink and pigment on cut papers and wood used here represent more than formal elements of the work, but comment on the random quality of this unplanned city. “Family Trees” by Suvan Geer is a luminous collage of old family photos that appear and disappear against a giant, ancient-looking tree. They are partially shrouded by transparent curtains with dried leaves scattered on the floor in front. The work, inspired by a dead tree and by people who have passed on, is a commentary on the ephemeral nature of life (Laguna Art Museum, Orange County).
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Noted international photographer Chris Rainer is on a mission to photograph the First Peoples of the planet before they disappear. His exquisite black and white images awaken us to mysterious life styles we know little about, recorded for future generations before they are acculturated. “Where the Masks Still Dance: New Guinea” took Rainer to Papua, a remote area where dance masks are integral to the many clan cultures. Each mask is hand carved, no two are alike. Composed of wood, dried grasses, modeled clay, turtle or coconut shells, paint, earth pigments and feathers, a mask may cover only the face or the dancer’s entire body. They range from scary to humorous, and serve worldly and other worldly functions – for celebration, initiation, commemoration and healing. Sophisticated western artists from the time of Picasso have responded to the amazing abstract configurations of these sorts of masks, and the exhibition conveys why. Once facial features are mapped out, the artists (mostly unknown) take off, carving symmetrical and asymmetrical images, combining colors and shapes in bold and inventive details. Each clan has its own style, but considering that this art form has been around since time immemorial and collectors have been preserving them for almost two hundred years, it is apparent that the New Guinea artists have not run out of unique artistic possibilities (Bowers Museum, Orange County).
- Roberta Carasso
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Normally asphalt heaved upwards by a massive tree root signifies some kind of triumph of nature, as if the tree is (slowly) throwing off the shackles of civilization. But in the case of André Woodward’s quirky, yet somber sculptures, the roots of living trees are literally imprisoned in cubes of cement. An entirely different meaning ensues. In some instances, the sculptures are meant to appear as if they’ve been scooped up off an abandoned bit of freeway somewhere, and are even fitted with small sound systems channeling in traffic noise. These tricky bonsais give rise to a strange sensation in the viewer: compassion for foliage? On the other hand, Woodward waters the sculptures regularly through the concrete, and some of the trees have been alive for more than four years. How is this different from the fate of any houseplant, bonsai, or even hapless seedling sprouting up in a sidewalk crack? (Huntington Beach Art Center, Orange County)
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