LA JOLLA — There was virtually no way to put together "A San Diego Exhibition: Forty-Two Emerging Artists"--now on display at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art--without leaving out countless, arguably worthy local artists. The day after the museum named its choices for the show, it was accused by some activist artists not only of unfathomable favoritism but of sexism in selecting a handful of females. An alternative exhibition--another Salon des Refuses-- was promised.
By now, the anti-museum rhetoric has died down, but the Salon is a welcome reality, housed in a small upstairs gallery at the La Jolla Public Library at Girard Avenue and Wall Street. Titled "More is More," the show features 10 San Diego artists, most of whom have not been starved of local recognition and who might as easily have made the La Jolla museum's cut as not.
In its way, the show, which takes but a few minutes to walk through, is a kind of fast-food flip side of the museum's gourmet menu. If anything, it enhances and reinforces the museum display by asserting (free of charge) that San Diego boasts more interesting visual artists than the big institutions can accommodate even at their most ambitious. And to its credit, the show doesn't seem to be taking a line on what sort of new art matters most in these parts.
" 'More is More' is not concerned with movements," writes exhibition curator Ellen Phelan in her one-page handout. "There is no general line--the work is diverse and the common factor is the strength of the individual vision. . . . 'More is More' is just what the title says. It indicates the need for more attention and more space for artists to be seen."
Under the circumstances, the two artists here with the most at stake are Avivah Rahmani and Marjorie Nodelman, who raised their voices loudest against the La Jolla museum selections. Rahmani's paintings are dream-inspired and impressionistic, and the two in this show come across with lyricism, mystery and authority. Nodelman works in a wraparound, billboard-Pop vein evocative of Lichtenstein and Rosenquist, but her derivative style doesn't diminish the energy, wry dislocations and absorbing harmonies of her large piece, "Freeway Series No. 6."
As for Ron Williams, he appraises the Salon situation head-on with three of his narrative assemblages. The first of them, "Submerging Artists," pokes fun at the La Jolla show by making reference to the tilted right-angle neon sculpture (by Stephen Antonakas) that adorns the museum's exterior. The piece is centered by a chalked blackboard effect, suggesting that it's back to the drawing board for artists left out of the La Jolla display. Williams' other pieces are spare, elegant visual jokes on the notion of hunter and hunted, and on his personal history as a Vietnam veteran.
Ellen Irvine's paintings are figurative and still-life studies that make interesting claims on the space they occupy, through her close-up approach and sense of perspective. Kathy Marshall offers vividly hued, realist miniatures of California light in relation to architecture. Scott Schafer flatly depicts a stocky cabinetmaker, using riotous cartoon color and a busy geometry that throws the human elements into bold relief. Tom Driscoll mounts a wall full of fractured, gray, concrete-like forms that suggest Abstract Expressionism.
Also included are Lynn Schuette's decorative reliefs, Brent Riggs' politically charged assemblages and Gail Roberts' abstract, painted-over arrangements of found objects. As a light prelude to or a chaser for the voluminous "real" show at the La Jolla museum, "More is More" is more than a sour grapes argument. It continues through April 28.