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Center Show Spotlights Real Hodgepodge Of Art

September 02, 1987|CATHY CURTIS

Walk into any young artist's studio and you may very well spot one strong piece of work. The challenge is to find more than one. Getting beyond that single "breakthrough" work is tough, especially when an artist can't seem to differentiate between routine output and that elusive flash of something special.

Juried shows tend to put emerging artists in a false light, beaming attention on a single effort that may not be a good indicator of all-round ability. But among the 52 works in Orange County Center for Contemporary Art's seventh annual juried exhibition, several represent double entries by the same artists.

Sometimes the result is simply two look-alike pieces by the same person. Both of Mary Schwartz's paintings of young boys in swim trunks ("Recessed Matt," winner of the OCCCA Award, and "Rat Slide") radiate good intentions, but the artist's style still smacks of a hard-won struggle with anatomy and the handling of paint.

Sometimes one piece is so much better than the other that you wonder whether the more interesting one was just a flash in the pan. (Bernard Kouzel's "Steps," an image of spray-painted figures "walking" up a flight of stairs--and winner of the Orangerie Award--is surely zestier than his other photograph, "Patio," an Andre Kertesz-style attempt to look freshly at wire chairs hooked onto a patio table.)

Still, maybe it's a good idea to try to represent each chosen artist in a bit more depth. Bleary-eyed jurors fumbling through artists' slides for future summer shows might want to play with that idea.

This time around, however, juror John Paul Jones, a painter and professor of art at UC Irvine, didn't seem to have any particular agenda. He waved his wand over excruciatingly slovenly figure painting, as well as flaccid, copy-cat abstraction. (Would you believe a faux Diebenkorn?)

He allowed in a token number of bland clay pieces. And he seems to have held the line against the burgeoning Southern California industry of creating collages and constructions with numbing numbers of doo-dads and thingamabobs.

Happily, he found a few pieces that are good. Or promising. Or at least extremely professional looking.

Don Paglia's three-dimensional wall piece, "Windsong Series 3" is a trompe l'oeil window, complete with askew blind, ajar sash window and a Wyeth-like view of soft grasses, gray sky and a broken bit of fence. It's all very nicely done, down to the wood grain, the grommet in the shade and the flecks representing flying birds.

Juan Rosendo's piece is innocent of such skillful handling. But what it lacks in finesse it makes up in street smarts. "Hope Center" is a small, free-standing piece of wood with a bulbous upper portion that mimics a down-at-the-heels mall sign. Crudely lettered on it are motorists' lures: "Cocktails," "Thrift Store," "Adult Books." At the bottom, the sign incorporates a flash of a white car, a mingling of mall fixture and mall customer in one easy piece.

David Twamley's thoughtful untitled drawing of a pencil and a metal picture holder, on a partially erased scribbled background with the faint traces of a pencilled-in shoe, suggests the stumbling journey of creation before a work of art is ready to present itself for general viewing.

James Simpson's assemblage-in-a-box, "Madonna of the Clock" (winner of the Canyon Box and Packaging Award), follows the well-worn lead of such celebrated box-art stylists as Joseph Cornell and Lucas Samaras in a tartly stylish way. A cutout of a screen goddess clutching her bra top wears a photo of a clock mechanism decorated with tiny watch gears on metal rods. Below, Botticelli's Venus lies on a Plexiglas box filled with crushed bits of glass. The whole shy-temptress package comes in a glass-front wooden box demurely fastened with a tiny padlock.

And in the minutely detailed realist vein so surprisingly popular in Southern California, Kerri Sabine's wittily titled "Still Life"--a tiny drawing of the light-glanced back of a man's head and a portion of his herringbone suit jacket--is a vest-pocket charmer.

A few other works stand out. Only a raggedness of execution keeps C. Bookout from mining the tragic vein he obviously seeks in "Grandma Died," a series of black-painted strips of cloth attached to a wood support.

Jose Lozano's morose, large-featured people grimly going through the motions of a social gathering ("Jaffra Party," winner of the Solo Exhibition Award, and "Night") have a certain brutish appeal. Lozano's prize entitles him to a solo exhibit at OCCCA next year.

All in all, the pickings aren't bad. This has to be one of the few shows around with an honest-to-goodness three-dimensional "interpretation" of Leonardo's "The Last Supper." Wonders never cease on the juried art circuit.

The exhibit continues through Sept. 11.

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