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A Renewed Interest In Form


Sculptor Roland Reiss, art department chairman at Claremont Graduate School, perceives a return to an age-old subject in art: the human figure.

"There has been a renewed interest in the figure in the last 10 years," Reiss said in an interview at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton, where "Expressions of the Human Figure," a competitive art exhibit, opens tonight. The 7 to 11 p.m. public reception is part of "A Night in Fullerton," an annual celebration of the arts featuring free music, art, drama and dance programs at 14 locations throughout the city. (For a listing of events, see Page 20.)

"This show does demonstrate a really fresh interest in the figure on the part of a lot of artists," said Reiss, who served as juror for the exhibit.

Reiss views this as part of a larger trend--a reaction against current modes of art by younger artists looking for new forms of expression. "It's just time for the pendulum to swing" to figurative art after the long dominance of abstract art forms, Reiss said.

About 500 works from about 300 artists nationwide were entered in the juried exhibition. Reiss and Norman Lloyd, Muckenthaler curator and exhibit designer, narrowed the field by viewing slides of the entered works. The final show includes 74 drawings, paintings and sculptures in a wide variety of styles.

Both Lloyd and Reiss commented on the diversity of the entrees. "There was such a range of work, it was amazing. All the way from traditional to really bizarre," Lloyd said. He added that the show is "a big change" for the relatively staid cultural center.

"There's every kind of figure imaginable in this show, speaking to every kind of person who might see it," Reiss said. "I can't imagine anyone wouldn't come to this show and find some things that were really terrific. I can't imagine they wouldn't find something to hate, too. That's the adventure of it all."

The diversity of the exhibit was not planned, Reiss said, but was a natural result of the selection process. "I don't think a juror should ever try to calculate that sort of thing, or enforce it--the standard is quality."

Reiss said he was looking for emotional content, rather than technical proficiency, in selecting works for the show. "The first criterion of judgment is that the work really be moving in some way. We've reached a point where there are so many wonderfully accomplished artists, technically, that it has almost no meaning. And what we are all looking for are those who speak to us in some unique way."

Although Reiss sees a renewed interest in the human figure as a subject for art, shows on the subject are rare. "I don't think there have been any juried shows pointed specifically at the figure in a long time," he said. The Muckenthaler exhibit includes work by artists from throughout the country, as well as a healthy showing by local residents. Orange County is represented by work from 27 artists.

"Expressions of the Human Figure" will be on display at the Muckenthaler, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., through June 28. Events planned in conjunction with the exhibit include a 12-hour life drawing marathon, May 10; a lecture by Reiss on the show, May 22; and a 12-hour life modeling marathon, June 7.

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