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SIGHTS AROUND TOWN : Remaining Outpost Fills the Fringe Void : With "Intimate Lies," Art City II continues tradition of exhibits that provide challenges.

August 05, 1993|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Where would Ventura's art gallery scene be without Art City II, that grand little palace of funk on the fringe? Since the slow death and closing of the Momentum Gallery this spring, Art City's exhibitions, often involving art that deliberately challenges complacency, have filled a void in the area.

Somebody's got to do it.

The spacious gallery at Art City II is a kind of last outpost (almost literally, on its remote Peking Street property) for edgy artistic expressions without blatant commercial appeal. Its current offering, a three-person show called "Intimate Lies," continues the trend.

The nucleus of the show is the multimedia, multi-minded work of Paul Benavidez, who shows flamboyant constructions in two and three dimensions both on and off the wall.

Benavidez works in various shades of bold. He flings junk materials together in vivid constructions, paints them to create bright color harmonies and alludes widely to references in the historical/cultural index, without ever being limited to strict contextual garb.

He jumps freely from "The Fall of Tenochtitlan," a relief sculpture run amok, which juts out dramatically from its wall brace, to "Summer of Love." The latter is a free-standing sculptural jungle gym, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of that legendary countercultural picnic.

The relief piece "Changed Breath" is a Stella-esque polyglot--an abstract collision of castoff shards--except for truncated patches of figurative classicism amid the rubbery rubble.

We also see documentary photographs of Benavidez's elaborate--if purposefully disjunct--stage set for Jeff Kaiser's opera "Rooster Brings Heresy," in addition to tall, iridescent banners.

Also at the exhibit are the works of Paul Lindhard, who, as the founder and head of Art City, is a kind of house artist. His work is found in the gallery more often than not. At this show, he adds several new elemental and androgynously erotic wood pieces to the room.

Perhaps one of the show's most jarring--and to some gallery goers, possibly the most shocking--exhibits is on the back wall. Artist Gloria Pearson is known around the local art circuit partly for her administrative work, but a glimpse at her provocative work here finds her stepping out from behind the desk.

Way out.

Pearson depicts female nudes in an entirely different mode than the traditional erotic and/or formal settings. Specifically, her focus in this series is on women in the elimination process.

Pearson's series of small "Freud Doily" pieces consists of dainty cloths that portray women urinating. The message behind the juxtaposition of media and images is clear: a defiance of standard values of dainty behavior.

Pearson's feminist statement rattles our preconditioning of acceptable limits--even in the presumably intellectual free marketplace of the art world.

Taboos can be stubborn barnacles on the brain.

BANK ART REVISITED: Summer is supposed to be the season--culturally speaking--when people ease off and glide along until autumn comes around with its more serious business atmosphere.

Why is it, then, that we find such potent stuff as the current exhibition at the Ventura County National Bank? One of the strongest shows yet in the "Visions" series, this 30th installment on the second floor transcends the business of pretty pictures.

Sharyn Robinson's works are small, but they pack a punch in terms of dark, enigmatic appeal. In her black, white and gray paper works, shadowy, vaguely landscape-like forms invite a basic question from the viewer. Significantly: What are they?

Lacking the rational grounding devices of perspective or scale, the works, with titles such as "Neptune Landscape" and "Microcosm," suggest either alien terrain or some biological realm. In her "On the Road" series, spray-painted pieces play off of a sense of balance between the foggy blur of road surfaces and the geometrical intersections of lines that form planes within the compositions.

With its apocalyptic red-black haze and barren hillsides, the painting "Not a Rose Garden" is just what its name implies. Robinson's intriguing personal vision is bleak and singular enough to warrant an investigation.

Jane McKinney's colorful works here differ from her stark, erotic work seen at the Buenaventura Gallery, but she finds new, raw ways of investing energy and mystery into still lifes and seascapes.

Yes, bank art can be more than you bargain for.

* WHERE AND WHEN

"Intimate Lies," through Aug. 21 at Art City II gallery, 31 Peking St., Ventura. Info: 648-5241. "Visions," through August 27 at Ventura County National Bank, 500 Esplanade Drive, Oxnard. Info: 482-8811.

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