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Celebrating the Joys of Life : Century Gallery exhibit features the work of three artists who had fun creating it.

July 09, 1993|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly for The Times.

These days, when budgets for public arts institutions are being slashed, if not cut out altogether, it must be difficult for any director of a public gallery to be optimistic about the future.

Perhaps this economic gloom and doom motivated Lee Musgrave of the County of Los Angeles' Century Gallery to organize the contemporary sculpture show, "Optimism: in Form, Color & Texture." When Musgrave was planning this exhibit, word was that it might be the gallery's last.

Now it appears that the gallery will continue to present shows for a while. But regardless of what prompted him to bring the works of Ingrid Lilligren, Lucinda Luvaas and John Rose together, only inveterate curmudgeons will be able to leave the gallery without smiles on their faces.

"It is very reassuring when you find mature adults who are open and free enough to express the joy and celebration of life in their artwork," Musgrave said. "The artwork itself tells you that the artist had fun making it."

Luvaas considers herself primarily a painter, but recently has chosen to realize her ideas in three dimensions while keeping the zesty color of her two-dimensional work. She said that when she first designs a sculpture in drawings, she feels "like a kid again, playing with an Erector set. There is the whole feeling of that wonder that you have when you approach your imagination."

"Hearts and Flowers" presents a scene of true love that is "purposely kitschy, very American--hokey, naive, capturing our spirit," Luvaas said. "The Enchanted Cactus," based on a cactus she found in front of her new Southern California home when she moved here from New York in 1991, is really "a cactus of life, like a tree of life," she said. Suggesting her love for flora and fauna, she has made the representations of people in this work no bigger than the animals and insects.

"People say I have this fascination for love. Why not? In this magical environment, we can imagine that we can fly, that we can be the size of a worm, that we can love each other," she said. "In a time when there's lots of cynicism, we have to fight it, the apathy and the diversity that separates us."

Rose said that he has always been a forward-looking, happy person, and that he wants his work "to be uplifting, to make other people feel good." His abstract, geometric forms pulse with regal colors--gold, purple, blue--conveying a jolly energy not unlike that of Luvaas' sculptures, though the form of their work is quite different.

Like Luvaas, Rose also began as a painter. Born in England, he lived in Hong Kong from the mid-1970s until he came to Los Angeles in 1982. In Hong Kong, he taught painting, sculpture and ceramics.

"Working with 3-D, my work pulled out of the surface," he said. Continuing to both paint and sculpt, he said, "it's like being schizophrenic."

A self-described "TV addict" since he moved here, Rose said he likes watching television not for the content, but for the stripes, spots and lines. "My paintings have always been about lines, stripes and spots," he said.

His intrigue with those forms is reflected in two drawings here. Both drawings and his sculptures also reveal his fascination with the circle.

When asked why such keen interest in the circle, he said, almost as if amused: "As far as I can understand, I have a very big feminine side to me--the circle as a motivating force to get connected to something." The circles in his work have also been inspired by perfectly shaped crop circles--circles formed among crops that some people believe are the work of extraterrestrials.

Rose puts hard and soft textures together, shiny surfaces with matte ones, to see what happens, he said. "I search for some kind of beauty in my work," he said.

The genesis of Lilligren's sculptures was also a desire to bring ideas out of the two-dimensional realm. "I was interested in exploring by building form," she said.

Lilligren said she is intrigued by people's responses to these full-bodied figures. "They don't ignore these," she said. "They either gravitate to them or are put off. They are very large and exist with a certain authority, but they're not meant to be confrontational."

Where and When What: "Optimism: in Form, Color & Texture" at Century Gallery, 13000 Sayre St., Sylmar. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through Aug. 6. Call: (818) 362-3220.

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