At Patricia Faure Gallery, Pondick's hand-molded totems lie on their backs with stubby legs sticking outward to form the circumference of a large, solid circle. Each consists of a fist-sized head atop a cucumber-shaped body from which usually emerge thumb-scaled arms and legs.
In various shades of blue, some of these crude wax sculptures have only two limbs. Others have none: Their torsos taper to a blunt, root-like tip. Most have appendages whose scale doesn't match: Depending on how you see these creepy pieces, one limb of each pair is either atrophied or undeveloped, and the other is either normal or swollen, often obscenely.
Every head, however, has a full set of human teeth, although no gums, tongue or lips are present. Ineffective aggression, rather than any kind of vulnerability, emanates from the New York-based artist's menagerie of unformed, fetus-like beings.
Resembling a cross between the murderous, newborn monster from "Alien" and a mutant mandrake root, Pondick's menacing figurines would be terrifying if they weren't pint-sized. Given their explicit sexual references, however, they are scary in their refusal to distinguish between oral gratification and anal retention. Pondick's supine army revels in the fact that art's pleasures are often linked to its pains.
* Patricia Faure Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 449-1479, through May 25. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Having and Using: Junk art never looked as good as it does in Jessica Stockholder's hands. That's because the New York-based artist doesn't use rusty garbage to evoke mawkish sentimentality but instead builds inelegant, rough-and-tumble structures from ordinary household materials that are too new and impersonal to be cherished.
It helps that Stockholder is a master of the casual, offhanded composition. At Thomas Solomon's Garage, a mini-installation and four furniture-size sculptures appear to be unwieldy, even random conglomerations of carpeting, cable and color until you begin to notice the formal decisions the artist made. In one, she chooses to balance the light shining from four blue bulbs in the background with four blue cargo straps in its foreground; in another, she uses a clump of macrame, roots and wigs as a surrogate canvas.
An acute, formal intelligence holds Stockholder's works together, as do their bolts, screws, ropes, tacks, glue and cement. Likewise, an independent ethos of do-it-yourself adaptation merges with a peculiar, suburban sense of prefabricated convenience in these lively hybrids. More dazzling and colorful than anything in a store, Stockholder's sculptures are so oddly cobbled together that there's no mistaking them for mass-produced commodities.
Utterly pragmatic, these pieces demonstrate that how something gets used is more important than how it was intended to be utilized. Using commercial products as raw materials for her gloriously klutzy sculptures, Stockholder celebrates the fact that having things isn't nearly as much fun as using things in unpredictable ways.
* Thomas Solomon's Garage, 928 N. Fairfax Ave., (213) 654-4731, through May 25. Closed Sundays and Mondays.