WOODLAND HILLS — It is not often that artists are given the opportunity to come into a gallery and do whatever they desire with the space. But that is the proposition that the Pierce College Art Gallery offered Los Angeles artists Lisa Adams and Rod Baer.
They have created separate, intriguing installations that meet under the title, "Aleatoric Circumstances." Before one decries the title as unintelligible artspeak, one should know that it is not art aficionado lingo, but a word that Adams, an avid dictionary reader, found and noted for future use.
A Random House dictionary defines \o7 aleatory\f7 as "pertaining to luck or chance; unpredictable." Baer described it as "random events that cause their own composition, their own sense, creating their own spontaneous energy."
And, as Adams said, the independently made installations "turned out to work together." Both she and Baer used a "spare, wall-to-wall approach."
Gallery director Joan Kahn offered these artists, who are friends, the space because "I like the eccentric poetry and cryptic lyricism in both their work," she said. "I thought that their work was similar in spirit, but very different in the way it is constructed. I was interested to have them do installations and see what happened. Rod constructs objects; Lisa is a painter. I felt it would be an interesting combination, and interesting for two friends to work together."
For Adams' untitled installation, you "stand in the middle and walk around," Kahn said. "To me it's about architecture."
Adams' 24-by-15-foot work grew from a scale model. "All the images are culled from the abstract images I've been working with in my painting," she said of the black paint on white walls.
These include two circular images that appear like the eyes of a cartoon character or tearful clown, and a gathering of elliptical shapes that float on the wall as if matter moving through space. At the bottom of house-shaped structures and other geometric shapes, sinuous paths flow like a river that seems to go nowhere and maybe everywhere. Large footprints seem to disappear over the wall leading to Baer's installation.
"It feels like Alice 'Through the Looking Glass,' an unbridled fantasy land, vignettes that dovetail together," Adams said. "The more I am here, the more I think it has a lot of different components emotionally.
"The idea that there was no color seemed real appropriate for working in a spatial mode. The flat black (images) retain their object-ness. They are voids, but they cast shadows. There's a lot of animation in here. There's an absurdity to (the installation) that I really like."
Adams found painting on the gallery walls a "curious or exhilarating primary experience," she said. "Paintings you take to have and to hold. Painting on the wall, you can't take it with you. It's going to be painted over. I like that I can't take it with me. It was a challenge to work with something that big. It informed me of my capacities. Now I feel I could do anything."
Entering the gallery, viewers will first observe Baer's installation, "Bamboo Tides." The long, horizontally placed bamboo poles surround a construction resembling a buoy that seems to bob along in ocean waves. But above viewers is a bamboo reed, part of it wrapped with a brilliantly blue rope that "reinforces a water line, a tidal line," Baer said. "You go from observer to (being) in it and under it. It's linear and almost graphic, and yet it's organic." The segmentation of the bamboo suggests "linear growth, the movement of time. I think of cycles, everything from life to death."
"I love the way Rod used the space," Kahn said. "It's the first time someone has used the space successfully."
Attached to the buoy-like structure are many bound-up newspapers, wrapped in copper. "Copper is one of the few materials that lasts forever," Baer said. He sees daily newspapers as a "whole attempt at creating this factual mode, taking something so transitory and attempting to make it permanent. A web of communication goes out over the world, but maybe it isn't realistic. The newspaper doesn't relate to the real issues of our time, yet it's there. The real stuff is experience, our senses. We need to reopen that.
"I try to make things that are imbued with the way I look at the world," he said. "The first and primary responsibility of an artist is to be honest about what you see."
Where and When
What: "Lisa Adams / Rod Baer: Aleatoric Circumstances."
Location: Pierce College Art Gallery, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Ends Oct. 26.
Call: (818) 719-6498.