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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | SIGHTS

Ojai Artist David Sherrod Draws a Fine Line

A display showcases his eye for detail with precise, evocative works.

June 20, 1996|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The art of finely detailed drawing requires that an artist have a certain temperament.

It has something to do with fastidious attention, a miniaturist's delight in small, pristine imagery, and, perhaps, obsessive attention to craftsmanship. All of these qualities are apparent in the strangely compelling drawings of David Sherrod now at the Ojai Center for the Arts.

In the works of Sherrod, who has lived in Ojai since January, are detected an eclectic range of influences--from Albrecht Durer to M. C. Escher (witness the bent logic of "Homage to Escher") and the pop-culture fixations and distortions found in Mad magazine or the gothic comic book "Heavy Metal." It's an odd mix, with mixed results.

In Sherrod's world, we find medieval bawdiness ("Masquerade" focuses on a woman's cleavage) and post-mod slices of humanity (in "Paris Metro" a subway car is peopled by a spike-haired punk and a prim, puffy, Botero-esque matron). The woozy spatial relationships in the "Blues Club" scene are a nod to the graphic distortions found in Mad.

One of the most evocative images here is "Rue des les Plaisures," in which an image of converging French streets is layered over with mystique and an aura of nocturnal decadence. No doubt, Sherrod is fiend for details, and sometimes that precision is rewarding in itself.

Also on view are Sherrod's landscape paintings, which, apart from their orderly structure, seem to come from another artist entirely, or another corner of this artist's brain. In these works, Sherrod taps a more traditional vein, savoring wisteria and eucalyptus instead of comical, medieval-meets-modern grotesqueries.

More of Sherrod's work, including a couple of tasteful views of nude couples in mid-embrace, can be found on the walls of the Darinka's Cafe, off the downtown Ojai arcade.

Also at the arts center this month, providing stark contrast, are June Bersson's spare, airy watercolor landscapes. She uses minimal gestures to convey appreciation of nature, as in the blurred, smeary washes of color representing the Arroyo Burro Estuary or a dazzling painting of apricot trees, white at the bottom and exploding upward in a free-for-all of yellow.

On another wall, and from another perspective entirely, Kristen Potts' mixed-media pieces are full of foggy shapes and ambiguous figures. With this series, Potts is depicting life, rituals and gatherings in a Native American village, all with a hazy, anecdotal quality. It's as if the images are distorted by the force of memory.

* David Sherrod, Kris Potts, Doris Shannon and June Bersson through June at the Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 Montgomery St. in Ojai; 646-0117.

*

Art Upended: Bonita Helmer, now showing up at Wheeler Hot Springs, also touches on Native American life. Her "Chumash" series pays homage to the indigenous people in the area.

As seen in this show, Helmer's art is all about the manipulation of forms and textures. Her larger, more dramatic works in the "California Landscape" series are actually pieces with radically mixed materials--i.e. acrylic, photography, broken glass and paper.

Objects protrude from the surface of the paintings, but in a friendly, benevolent way rather than with the angst-fueled brashness of the Julian Schnabel school. "Dark Stage" depicts a murky green room with rippling paint on the surface and chunks of glass erupting out of the center. In other works, the blend of materials sets up a cycle of contrasts--paint on paper on metal.

Helmer interweaves elements that don't necessarily belong together, by standard definitions, and asks, in a soft, persuasive voice, "Why not?"

* Bonita Helmer, through July 7 at Wheeler Hot Springs, 16825 Maricopa Highway in Ojai; 646-8131.

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