"The World of Tomorrow" is a superbly installed and impeccably selected 13-artist exhibition at Thomas Solomon's Garage. Curated by New York writer Douglas Blau, the show's hauntingly beautiful landscapes and cityscapes give solid shape to a remarkably refined, accessible and generous curatorial sensibility.
Like the movie "Back to the Future," Blau's arrangement of photographs, paintings, drawings and prints freely traverses past and present, suggesting that each moment of time embodies multiple realities. In this quiet, thoughtful show, powerful memories drift in and out of focus alongside the hopes and fears that accompany the future's unfolding.
It's a pleasure to move from the strange, soft-focus clarity of Uta Barth's Ektacolor photograph of the Bonaventure Hotel to the saturated glow of a gorgeously poisonous sunset in Robert Yarber's photo of a gas station. A shadow of melancholy is cast over culture's transitory nature by Oliver Wasow's Cibachrome print of a solitary tree presiding over a shimmering, seemingly underwater city, and Barbara Ess' pinhole rendition of a derelict Neo-classical facade.
Frank Majore's slick "Ellis Island" dresses up America as an irrepressible fantasy of luxury and wealth, while a mute drawing of abandoned Detroit skyscrapers by Michelle Zalopany strips down reality to dreams gone sour. The eternal city of Rome is transformed into a precious souvenir in Judy Fiskin's tiny keyhole picture.
None of the images in "The World of Tomorrow" depict people. Although our impact is amply evident, the show leaves the impression that our future role is indeterminate and tentative. We get the feeling we've been momentarily cast adrift in a world free of other people, left alone to follow whims and personal associations.
Blau's poetic vision is refreshingly out of step with current art-world trends. In an overly critical era, he willingly entertains the possibility that pictorial seduction is more than mere manipulation. Unabashedly romantic, "The World of Tomorrow" hints that the time has come when intelligence no longer requires austere moral messages, and that it should no longer be embarrassing to take pleasure in art.
* \o7 Thomas Solomon's Garage, 928 N. Fairfax Ave., (213) 654-4731, through March 12. Closed Sundays and Mondays. \f7 *
In-Your-Face Recycling: At the height of the Vietnam War, Robert Heinecken altered a handful of Time magazines and put them back on the rack of a Los Angeles newsstand, keeping a few copies for himself. At Linda Cathcart Gallery, these remaining rarely seen and little known pieces of cultural sabotage are displayed with about two dozen other superimposed, surgically cut-up and pointedly reconfigured issues.
Each page of Heinecken's fake magazine from 1968 was printed over a news photo of a Vietnamese soldier holding two decapitated heads. Heinecken's in-your-face recycling of atrocity goes to the heart of the debate about whether the mass media numbs us to horror or sparks action.
Throughout the '70s, Heinecken made collages of various popular publications, sometimes seamlessly piecing together an entire magazine with nothing but advertisements for cigarettes and liquor, or only food.
A few issues in which he juxtaposed hard-core porn with articles intended to inform teens about puberty and dating strike a sensitive social nerve. At once hilarious and distressing, these incisive works prod society's unsavory underbelly.
An altered 1989 Kodak-sponsored special issue of Time celebrating 150 years of photo-journalism is Heinecken's editing masterpiece. By cutting away precise portions of each page, he peels away the slick surfaces of the news to suggest that everyday reality is a vicious conspiracy.
* \o7 Linda Cathcart Gallery, 1643 12th St., Santa Monica, (310) 392-8578, through March 10. Fridays and Saturdays only. \f7 *
A Foot on Multiculturalism: Portentous self-pity swamps John Mandell's lugubrious sound and slide installation at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Intentionally overblown and hollow, "Opera of Blame" struggles to balance heavy-duty existential dread against ironic self-mockery, but sinks under the weight of its own bombast.
In a dark, cavernous gallery, the text of a gloomy poem is projected on a wall. On another wall, the filmed image of a jaded businessman intermittently appears, usually accompanied by a musical fanfare. A framed wall label proposes that the dour businessman is a 40-story buoy that lurches around the Pacific Rim, threatening ships and beaches like a mutant, unmoored Statue of Liberty.
Mandell's \o7 Angst\f7 -laden poem recalls Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself." The wildly optimistic, radically democratic 19th-Century poet delighted in finding connections between his innermost self and all inhabitants of his country.