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Notable Works Surface in Watercolor Exhibit

Enough pieces in the Brand show sidestep the usual niceties to bring something solid to the medium.


If there is an unstated message to be gleaned from the sprawling show of watercolor work at the Brand Library gallery, it might be that generalizations and typecasting are as dangerous as ever.

The National Watercolor Society has culled a show of strong pieces, mostly supporting conventional wisdom that watercolor is a medium for artists who enjoy painting more than thinking about painting.

But there are enough pieces that take delightful detours around the usual landscape niceties and fluid fantasies to warrant close scrutiny. In a checklist of artworks, juror Don Lagerberg writes that he had an eye out for "a convincing vision supported by appropriate technique and visual language."

"Vision" is not the word that leaps to mind as you gaze over this ample crop of goods, but craft and artistry are not wanting.

Some artists do manage to push the medium past its traditional standards. Sandra Goldman's "Arabesque" blends collage and watercolor to create a tapestry-like effect. James Wills tinkers with dimensions in his smirkingly titled "In/Out House," painted in a shallow box and suggesting a kooky tableau.


Heidi Taillefer flexes a skilled hand, a clever eye and a punster's lack of shame with "The Real Makaw," in which a flamboyantly colored bird is seen as a machine, all neatly defined gears and connective tubing.

Watercolor paint is applied to translucent paper with Jerome Land's "Recall Corners," a disjointed urbanscape, as if the half-remembered impressions of a city.

Ben Watson III's "Moonglow" is a surprisingly pristine female nude study, with a realistic fleshiness hard to convey in the fluid medium of watercolor. "Still Life," by Kent Addison, offers a quirky depiction of a king of hearts taped onto a license plate against a floral-print wallpaper.

From the comic relief department, a certain naive wackiness rears its head on occasion, as in Susan Webb Tregay's "Land of Opportunity," an image of a U.S. map full of childlike houses and the block-printed script "WHERE ANYBODY CAN GROW UP TO BE PRESIDENT."

In another corner, Chica Brunsford's "The Mediator" depicts a bearded elf stepping in to settle a dispute among the animals. The irony in these works is sweet rather than toxic or ultra-hip.

At times, all it takes is a fresh angle to enliven a medium. Will Bullas' "The Sun Dress" is all about surface tingle, with a semi-photographic visual effect that brings a yellow vividly to life.

In the case of Noriko Hasegawa's crisply rendered "Doors #3," the artist's titled, downward view of a door is unorthodox enough to seize interest.

Eyeing the standout pieces rather than the status quo, the upshot is that here as with any group show of this magnitude, selective vision is the key to art appreciation.

* National Watercolor Society, Annual Juried Competition, through May 14 at the Brand Library gallery, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale; (818) 548-2051.

Group Show Department, Part II: In another corner of the Valley, another type of group show beckons. It's that time of season, the finale of the school year, when the CSUN gallery hosts an array of student artworks. The curatorial rationale extends no further than the matter of school ties, but there is much to take note of.

We find some intriguing deviations from art world norms in the show. Penny Collins' "Ecouture #1" takes a quirky approach to materials--a fancy dress with its frills made from recycled plastic bags.

The imagery spills over in Diane Light's "Spirit Abode," a depiction of a cave in which boulders tumble out of the rectangular confines of the picture frame.

Jason Byers seems to be the most openly conceptual gadfly of the bunch. His investigation into artistic process involves a chain link fence enclosure littered with photocopies of a photograph of an artwork in evolution--creative connections once and twice removed. Elsewhere, Byers' "Cascade 109 AD" uses unreeling toilet paper as its sculptural putty, a metaphor for ephemera.

Greg Bernath and Enza Fina collaborated on the formal/functional "Instrument," a kalimba fitted to a large vessel, which serves as a resonating body. Shay Peretz's abstracted photographs show a sensitivity to form and light, while Christie Duarte's painting "Homage to Harold Arlen" portrays a sepia face fitted with rainbow eyes, an apt depiction of a brooding artist teased by the muse.

* Student Art Show, through May 31 at CSUN Art Dome, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge; (818) 885-2226.

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