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It's Your Life / People, Places and Things to do. : POINTLESS ART : Wesselmann's Works Seem Out of Time, Place

June 22, 1995|JOSEF WOODARD

The Ojai Center for the Arts is showing the quasi-Postimpressionist paintings of Jeanine Wesselmann, whose half-successful attempts to imitate Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec are so blatant as to beg the question: What's her point?

Traveling widely in her youth as the daughter of diplomats, Wesselmann observed the social swirl, the subject of these curious paintings. But they seem out of time and place, aping the French manner of 100 years ago and depicting idle social milieus that look back in longing at another, perhaps more genteel age.

Wesselmann's canvases buzz with activity, and sometimes there are painterly devices in search of purpose. "En Plein Air" is peopled with cafe lurkers, but the painting stops abruptly in horizontal bands at the top and bottom. It's supposed to be an objectifying, perhaps deconstructionist scheme, but instead it looks as if the artist got bored or ran out of paint.

There is enough momentary interest amid the pieces to keep the viewer looking and hoping for purpose, such as the vibrant yet vulnerable wave of light in "Le Chapeau Rouge." Mostly, though, these paintings seem to want to be something else than what--and where and when--they are.

* Jeanine Wesselmann, Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St., Ojai; through Tuesday; 646-0117.

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