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Stretching Perceptions : An artists' group formed in '89 to locate public exhibit space for its works now counts more than 50 members.

October 09, 1992|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff is a regular contributor to The Times

When Jeanne Hahn first came to Everywoman's Village in Van Nuys to sign up for an art class in 1984, it was the maintenance man who told her, "You want Alex, he's been here for years," Hahn said.

He could not have known how fortuitous his directive was for Hahn. Since then, she has continued to take painting and drawing classes from Alex Vilumsons.

"The first day he said, 'This is a 5- to 10-year program.' He only wanted somebody who was serious," Hahn said. "He's the only teacher I've had who gives me permission to be myself."

Out of Vilumsons' classes has come "Artist Co-op 7," of which Hahn was a founding member. In 1989, she and other students formed the co-op for the purpose of finding public exhibit space for their work. Today, there are more than 50 group members, most of them women. Hahn herself has had 12 shows during the past three years.

"It is uncanny how this group has developed and continued," said Hahn, 43. "We have been associated with each other in a workshop environment for many years. The beauty of it is, it's an ongoing education. We share insights with each other and get group support. It's so different working on your own. One of the most important aspects is the rewards we get working together."

The co-op's inaugural exhibit in the spring of 1989 was in the Federal Building cafeteria in West Los Angeles, which has continued to show members' work, except for a recent break while the show space awaits repainting. Members take it upon themselves to contact restaurants, banks and other public and professional buildings about showing their art. The group has been particularly successful with restaurants: More than 20 are exhibiting co-op art, and many of them--including Brio, Fins and Tartine--are in the San Fernando Valley.

Hahn said one woman in the group who liked to eat out found 11 venues for her own work, which she then passed on to other members. Some of these restaurants still feature co-op artists' work.

A series of 15 female figure studies by Hahn is on view at Truly Yours, a restaurant and bar in Tarzana.

"Not everybody gets out to galleries," said Truly Yours manager Jay Zallan, who is also an artist. "We like having gallery shows to generate awareness of art." Zallan added that art contributes color to the eatery's cool, concrete and glass interior.

Hahn initially painted landscapes when she began studying with Vilumsons. Portraits also exist in her portfolio, but her current focus is on the figure.

"It's the most challenging to me now," she said. "The figure is limitless in its possibilities--in the ways you can approach it."

Two abstract charcoal drawings of a female nude, one illustrating her from the back, the other from the front, reflect Hahn's desire to exaggerate the form and to stretch her own intuition and perception.

"I lay on the floor and looked up at the model to physically feel and see the exaggeration," she said.

She works with diverse mediums--watercolor, pastel, pen and ink, ink with charcoal, and acrylics--to explore the figure. For an acrylic study done in primary colors, she used a pallet knife to simplify the shapes.

"The Village, with its philosophy of self-understanding and creative expression through the joy of learning, continues to provide an environment for us to flourish," Hahn said. The artists' primary interest in seeking public venues "is not commercial, but to further growth through the experience of showing our work."

Where and When

What: "Jeanne Hahn: Figure Studies."

Location: Truly Yours, 18588 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. Sunday, through Oct. 22. A reception for Jeanne Hahn will be held 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 18.

Call: (818) 996-3131.

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