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GOINGS ON SANTA BARBARA : Then and Now : The natural history museum looks back in time and myth. A contemporary gallery opens Friday.

September 20, 1990|MAJA RADEVICH

Ancient traditions, legendary characters and historic beasts will make their home starting this week in the comfortable, old surroundings of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. On the other end of town, contemporary creations opt for a modern setting in the soon-to-be-opened gallery at the new Paseo Nuevo shopping center.

The museum of natural history is displaying three new exhibits starting today, while The Contemporary Arts Forum will open on Friday with two exhibits.

The ancient art of mask making has been passed down through the generations. Luis Martines, who is in his 60s, has spent his life in a village in Michoacan carving these powerful sculptures. More than 200 of his unpainted masks will be on display through Oct. 10.

In the "Coyote Steps Out" exhibit, also opening today at the museum, a legend takes a modern twist. Coyote is the mythical troublemaker and folk hero in American Indian oral tradition. Artist Harry Fonseca has placed the archetypal Coyote into both traditional and modern settings. In one painting, Coyote appears as an Indian dancer in feathered cape. In another, he's dancing the tango in a fashionable tuxedo. And in still another he's boogying with his date at the Pow Wow Club.

With numerous art shows throughout the country, Fonseca is gaining widespread recognition and last year the Smithsonian Institution hosted a 10-year retrospective of his work. The Coyote exhibit will be shown through Jan. 2.

Historic beasts are represented in more familiar forms and settings in the "Zoological Illustrations from the Voyage of the Frigate Venus" which will be displayed today through Jan. 2. The hand-colored lithographs of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates are part of a rare, antique collection of illustrations from the "Atlas de Zoologie" published in 1846.

The French ship Venus set sail in 1836 and traveled around the world for 30 months to report on whale fisheries in the Pacific and to establish a French presence in the area. But scientific information, including navigational charts, a collection of natural history specimens, and the illustrations of exotic animals resulted from the expedition.

Admission to these three exhibits at the Museum of Natural History is included in the entrance fee: $3 for people over 18, $2 for seniors and teen-agers, $1 for children 2 to 12. The museum is at 2559 Puesta del Sol Road, next to the Mission Santa Barbara. Hours are Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 682-4711.

History runs head-on into modern technology as the new Contemporary Arts Forum gallery opens Friday with "The Expulsion of the Moors" as its inaugural exhibit. "Moors" uses videos, theatrical lighting and even a television to explore the Christian/Moorish roots of Spanish history.

In this multimedia exhibit, artist Raul Ruiz attempts to examine history, religion, architecture, politics and poetry using videotape projected into individual spaces.

Ruiz was born in Chile in 1941. By the time he turned 21, Ruiz had already written 100 plays. Then he moved away from theater to study filmmaking. Ruiz was appointed film adviser to the Chilean government when Salvador Allende's Popular Party won the election in 1970. After Allende was assassinated and Augusto Pinochet took over in 1973, Ruiz went into exile in Paris.

During this last school year, Ruiz was visiting professor of film at Harvard University. He is completing his first American film, "The Golden Boat." The "Moors" exhibit will be displayed until Oct. 27 at which time it will travel to Valencia, Spain, then to Paris.

"Openings," a display of artworks created for an auction to benefit the Contemporary Arts Forum, can also be seen on Friday. Many of the pieces have been specially created for the exhibit and donated to the auction by the artists. The auction will be held Oct. 6.

Admission to the gallery is free. The Contemporary Arts Forum is on the second level of the Paseo Nuevo shopping center on the 600 block of State Street. 966-5373.

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