For those not yet initiated, the Art City II Gallery sits cozily on the outer edge of town. This property has long been a haven for art and artists with little interest in commercial traffic. Sculptors do their work in the yard, while the spacious gallery remains one of the best and most adaptable in the area.
Don't expect niceties or conventional wisdom here. And, much as its participants stay true to individual muses rather than collective schools of thought, the current group show, "Luminosus," is as good a sampler as any of the Art City II aesthetic umbrella.
Multidimensional multimedia works seem to best embody the adventure-hungry spirit of Art City. Found objects have a happy home here--from Dan Layman's menagerie of creatures to the funky collaged eccentricities of Doug Lipton.
The continuous sound of crackling fire in the gallery comes courtesy of the multimedia piece "Keeping Warm by the Fires of Heresy" by M. B. Hanrahan and sTeVe Knauff. Kneeling painted figures frame a TV/video setup with a looping image of burning books.
This team's work has been turning up elsewhere in town--for example, their elaborate installation piece "The New Dark Ages," upstairs at Nicholby's.
Paul Benavidez's multimedia wall relief, "Christmas Land," is a color/texture bombast with nods to Frank Stella, friendly and wild by turns. Multimedia artist Joe Cardella's "LOVE HOPE WORD DEED," with words etched in concrete (literally), occupies some ironic middle ground between fine art and gravestone handiwork.
In the photography area, multiple perspectives are offered, from the erotic figure formations by Kakine and Chris Ingham to Mike Moore's tiny landscapes in the "Haiku series." Lorenzo De-Stefano's wide-angle documentary images from Cuba express a \o7 joie de vivre \f7 rather than reaching for any sociopolitical message.
A fine photographer with deceptively big ideas, John Nichols celebrates the enigma of the everyday. Odd, elliptical cropping and fragile image resolution give his pictures a careful blend of the familiar and the alien.
Art City mayor Paul Lindhard shows his elegant, increasingly abstracted figure sculptures, in contrast to the more traditional male torso of Kim Hughes and the Maltese Falcon-like black cat sculpture by Matt Harvey.
In a less politicized or conceptually charged corner of the gallery hang the purely sensuous painted silk works by Aimee French, all seeping colors and gauzy beauty.
As usual, Art City offers a lot to look at and something to think about.
Things are again brewing over at the Livery Arts Center, which has gone through changes since the closure of the Momentum Gallery and the scaling back of the Ventura Arts Council. The Momentum has risen again, in half the footage of the old gallery space, and the gallery's second show is an impressive group affair.
As the show's title implies, "Above and Beyond Landscapes" is a deceptively inventive, energized foray into the familiar terrain of landscape art.
Jane McKinney, also the show's curator, deals with landscape in restrained, minimalist mode in "Thanksgiving Morning," while Carolyn Hubbs deals in horizon lines. A squiggly, almost biomorphic vibrancy comes through in Sharyn Robinson's works, bearing such titles as "Personal Dig" and "Aloha," and multiple imagery is the wont of Lynn Morley.
Coming from a more traditional painterly approach, Bert Collins leans toward prickly sharp focus, contrasting with Robert Lerner's rougher-edged vistas.
The Momentum, at various points a focal point and gathering place on the Ventura art scene, is making a valiant return, albeit humbly scaled.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Among the more disorienting and somehow theatrical exhibitional venues in town these days is the casket emporium known as Eternal Comforts. Rather than presenting generic, soft-edged stuff, the current show, co-sponsored by the Ventura Arts Council, cannily takes into account its atypical setting.
Ventura artist Paul Berchan's paintings, as a whole, play like an extended riff off the notorious existential image of Edvard Munch's "The Scream." Gape-mouthed, spectral figures float in ambiguous spaces, transforming anguish into kitsch. From the Munch-ish to the funk-ish, Al Honig's cheeky urn sculptures are crafted from gleaming found objects, suggesting that they might be functional, if cartoon-y, machines.
\o7 Angst \f7 and frivolity mix with the more somber aspect of the business. The art's proximity to the caskets and urns, with a plush sonic haze of Chopin piano preludes and the trickle of a fountain, added up to the sensation of a surreal installation piece or stage set from "The Love One."
* "Luminosus," through January at Art City II Gallery, 31 Peking St., Ventura; 653-6380.
* "Above and Beyond Landscapes,' through January at the Momentum Gallery, 34 N. Palm St., Ventura; 652-0288.
* Paintings of Paul Berchan and urn sculptures of Al Honig, through January at Eternal Comforts, 1744 E. Main St., Ventura; 643-1060.