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SIGHTS AROUND TOWN / THE ART SCENE : A Real Eye-Opening Exhibit at Oxnard's Library


The unsuspecting visitor to the Oxnard Library these days finds the place beyond just bookish. Amorphous hunks of marble, odd mutations of the human form, and other 3-D concoctions turn the library's ample ground-floor lobby into a sculpture garden worthy of double takes.

And double takes are the intent of the Art City sculptors whose work makes up the exhibit called "Abreojos," Spanish for "open your eyes."

As publicly accessible founts of ideas, libraries are ripe places for art exhibits, as both this current show and Ted Phillips Jr. paintings at Ventura's H. P. Wright Library illustrate.

Art City, the funky and unique artists' enclave in Ventura that plays host to a number of sculptors, occupies its own happy, self-sustaining corner of the local art scene. But here, Art City takes its act on the road, and the work travels well. No single aesthetic reigns at Art City, an equal opportunity locality. That plurality of purpose comes through in the library show.

Eric Richards' "Art City Rhythm" tells the story. A seated bongo player, fashioned of twisted metal, is a kind of retro-bohemian icon. A mischief-making figurative sculptor, Richards' "Icara" finds a surreal nude figure with a nest for a head and a rusty saw-blade form in hand.

The sensuous abstraction of Paco Robles' "Trouble" suggests an altered nude figure and/or a melting molar. Kakine's "Black Pearl" refers to a bowling ball-like sphere nestled in a stone cocoon, a study in opposites.

It's not possible to hide behind benign interpretations of abstraction in viewing M.B. Hanrahan's "If Your Arm Offends You Cut It Off." There it is, a severed limestone arm--speckled with phone numbers--on a pedestal, sending off a Biblical buzz.

Photorealism Op

Tucked away unobtrusively on the back wall of the H. P. Wright Library in Ventura are Ted Phillips Jr.'s series of impressive photographs of small-town Americana. . . .

But wait! Closer inspection reveals the fruits of brush-wielding human hands. In a literal sense, Phillips' acrylic paintings deserve a close-up view.

They succeed by the aesthetic standards of that peculiar sub-genre, photorealist painting. From any distance beyond point-blank range, they purvey the optical illusion of imitating photographs, not only the fine details of the medium, but also its artificial compression of space.

But, apart from that painterly hat trick, many of the images carve out their own poetic sense of place and character. Americana is the recurring but malleable theme, with the woodsy homes and Main Street U.S.A. scenery. Chic desolation results from a lonely cafe/motel, with a broad dusty expanse of nothingness in the foreground.

Painting About Architecture

Over at the Buenaventura Gallery in Ventura, Dorothy Holmes is the featured artist with a show called "Shadows and Substance." Holmes' paintings, though not uniformly inspired, seize on elliptical views of architecture.

Appreciation of architecture is about the details, anyway, not just the grand sweep of mass and line.

Holmes keeps this in mind as she zooms in on the upper portion of a Spanish Colonial Revival building in the fine piece "Santa Clara St." She cocks her perspective and comes away with a tilted vision of dappled stucco--she uses the brush, knife and rags to get her throbbing surfaces--against a blue California sky.


* "Abreojos," sculpture by Art City artists, at the Oxnard Public Library, 251 S. A St. in Oxnard, through May 14. For more information, 385-7500.

* "Faces and Places," acrylic paintings by Ted Phillips Jr. at the H. P. Wright Library, 57 Day Road in Ventura, through Friday. For more information, call 648-1235.

* "Shadows and Substance," paintings by Dorothy Holmes at the Buenaventura Gallery, 700 Santa Clara Ave. in Ventura, through May 15. For more information, call 654-1235.

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