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It's the Surreal Thing : Works by 12 artists represented in Artspace Gallery exhibit reflect 'the way they deal with circumstances around them,' says the curator.

April 23, 1993|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Steve Appleford is a regular contributor to Valley Life.

Artist Nicholas Fedak II has commandeered a corner for himself, stapling to these black walls some found newspapers from the 1920s, with their faded comics and headlines. And here he'll gather a quartet of chairs, draped under cloth and scattered flower petals, all of it watched over by vintage family portraits etched onto large sheets of plexiglass.

This is a mixture from the past of certain childhood memories. "It's intangible and ethereal," Fedak, 40, said of this past explored through his installation work. "It's something you know about and can't go back to physically. But visually and emotionally, you can bring it all back."

Like much of the "Fantasy and Surreal" group exhibition opening Tuesday at Artspace Gallery in Woodland Hills, Fedak's installation offers a surrealism grounded in reality and human experience. Across the gallery, painter Cathy Mock's five large canvases reflect emotional truth about psychological isolation and hopelessness through otherwise nightmarish scenes. Norma Squires' series of colorful paintings of scenes from the greater cosmos draws heavily from her reading of astrophysics and other sciences.

The elements of the fantastic and surreal explored by the 12 artists in the show have less in common with traditional surrealism than with "the way they deal with circumstances around them," said Scott Canty, curator of the exhibition. "And it often revolves around a spiritual awakening. It can have a mystical quality."

Some of this quality emerges from unexpected sources. Russian-born Sar has created a series of bronze sculptures that at first appear to be modeled on figures from classical sculpture. But a closer look reveals the pieces to be partly fashioned out of such unlikely objects as light bulbs, water bottles and shampoo containers. A collection of smaller, more abstract pieces is made entirely of tobacco pipes.

"He's trained in classical sculpture," Canty said of the artist, who emigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1970s at the height of a career creating statues of Lenin and other national figures. Since settling in Los Angeles in recent years, Sar has won several local commissions, including a bust of Mayor Tom Bradley now at Los Angeles International Airport.

For the "Fantasy and Surreal" show, Sar uses such common items as Perrier water bottles "to exalt that shape," Canty said. "He's honoring the industrial designers in his pieces. . . . He's trying to make us come back and say, 'God, that is beautiful. It's not just a discard.' "

Other artists in the show, working in a variety of media, include Sydney Cobb, Merrilyn Duzy, Ryan Hill, Yvonne Jongeling, Kyle Lind, Laurel Long, Cathy Mock, Jorge Santos and Corrine Whitaker.

Also working in a classically influenced style is Long, whose 40-by-60-inch paintings reflect her interest in techniques used by Renaissance painters. Rather than traditional portraits, Long uses the fine detail of that old style to illustrate internal conflicts and quiet emotion. In her painting "To Please You," the image of a mother figure with her back turned floats above a small table with flowers and other items.

"Surrealism as an art form has to do with the subconscious and dreams," said Long, a professor of two-dimensional art at Cal State Northridge. "In some ways, when things come to your mind through dreams, these images can have significance later. The mystery of that appeals to me."

The intricate pen-and-ink drawings of Lind have their own brand of mystery, as lines cascade into shapes and images. One 6-by-8-foot canvas has been his work in progress for 30 years, Canty said.

"For awhile, I've been intrigued with the idea of doing this kind of exhibition," Canty said. "And I wanted to slant it toward a more personal message. I sense a spiritual feeling here."

Where and When What: "Fantasy and Surreal" art exhibit. Location: Artspace Gallery, 21800 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills. Hours: Show runs Tuesday through May 29, from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Price: Free. Call: (818) 716-2786. Box for page

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