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ART WORLD : Lari Pittman: Breathing Life Into His Art

March 04, 1990|SHAUNA SNOW


One of Lari Pittman's goals with his new suite of paintings, "Beloved and Despised, It Continues Regardless," was to make the work alive . So alive, in fact, that viewers would feel the paintings were literally talking to them.

"I wanted to make the work chattier and more conversational," said Pittman, whose show is at La Cienega Boulevard's Rosamund Felsen Gallery through Saturday. "I wanted you to be forced, because of the inhabitants in (the work), to talk back at it."

Pittman called his new works, which include six 6-by-5-foot paintings, two massive 10-by-8-foot paintings and an accompanying suite of lithographs, "a litany of sorts" that scrutinize human behavior and the need for relationships. The conclusion, the 38-year-old Pittman says, is that "nothing has changed . . . desire is still a pulsating beat for people."

Of course the "desire" depicted in the works isn't always your typical romantic desire. For instance, in "This Recipe: Beloved and Despised, It Continues Regardless," the artist has placed a pair of connected audiotapes inside a man's reproductive organs. These organs are linked to a woman's large womb, which is linked with an arrow to a young, pigtailed girl. Beneath them is an ongoing traffic jam, which in addition to cars, contains mechanical items such as radios. This, the artist says, depicts the economical basis of many relationships.

In addition to his Victorian-clad figures, Pittman, who in 1983 had his first one-person shows--simultaneously--at Rosamund Felsen and Newport Harbor Art Museum, paints a wealth of symbols. They range from arrows ("a way of directing the viewer in, around and through each piece in the same way that a good sign would do") to coffins ("to show the discussion of death and mortality as not inherently being a morbid topic").

"I don't like stingy work," the CalArts-trained Pittman says with a smile. "My paintings are very active and full. But I always know when they're finished--a work is finished when it comes to a real agitated, full boil." THE SCENE

After four years of operating Merging One Gallery in Santa Monica, Diana Wong is ready to close her gallery. She has taken out an ad in ArtNews magazine offering the space--which is connected to her studio and home--for rent. "It takes up all my time when I run the gallery," said Wong, who is herself a painter and would like to concentrate more time on her own art. "But I will continue doing it until I am able to lease it out."

Michael Kohn Gallery is the latest of those that have moved to Santa Monica. The gallery, now at 920 Colorado Ave., is hosting its inaugural opening on Saturday with an exhibition of new work by New York-based painter Joan Nelson. Already moved into Michael Kohn's old space at 313 N. Robertson Blvd. is the new gallery Martin Lawrence Modern. Martin Lawrence's current show of original works on paper from the '60s, '70s and '80s by artist Tom Wesselmann runs through mid-March.

A show at the Zero One Gallery on Melrose Avenue may literally knock your socks off. Entitled "Inaugural Gooseflesh," the exhibition attempts to channel Salvador Dali's spirit in a seance overseen by a professional trance-channeler. Produced by members of the Actors' Gang and Strike Theater, the "exhibition," at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday nights through March 16, includes interactive installations relating to various aspects of Surrealism and Dadaism, as well as a performance based in part on playwright Andrew Dallmayer's "Hello Dali." Admission is $15. Information: (213) 466-7957. OVERHEARD:

At Sotheby's Beverly Hills preview of an auction of the Harry A. Franklin Family Collection of African art last Tuesday night, a well dressed crowd of collectors, dealers, curators and artists gathered for a last look at a revered local collection that will be sold on April 21 in New York. While a few knowing collectors quietly speculated that a renowned Cameroon sculpture known as "The Bangwa Queen" would break the $2.08 million record for African art, a young man in tweeds told a well-coiffed matron in a Chanel suit, "If you dropped a million or two at an Impressionist auction, you might get a 10th-rate Renoir. If you spent the same amount at this auction, you could have a world-famous masterpiece with an impeccable pedigree." CURRENTS:

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