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VALLEY WEEKEND | SIGHTS

Juried Exhibit Offers Hodgepodge of Styles

The artworks reflect individuality with some emphasis on themes, such as feminism.

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

For much of the year, the Century Gallery, tucked into the eastern edge of the Valley in Sylmar, could be considered an oasis of sorts.

Exhibitions there tend to be focused and of a caliber worth noting. Plus, on a smog-free day, visitors are afforded a panoramic view of the Valley.

Summer comes and attitudes loosen, especially in art spaces affiliated with academic institutions: The Century Gallery is administered by L.A. Mission College. The current "Open Juried Competition" is a pleasant enough sampler plate of work, necessarily a hodgepodge but with several points of interest and a hint of a theme or two.

Curated by Robert Gino and Don Grant, keepers of the venerable Orlando Gallery in Sherman Oaks, this is a show that gleefully splinters into multiple directions, without apology. And who's complaining? The advantage of these types of shows is the implicit emphasis on individuality in art.

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You know that diversity is the byword when the art ranges from the earthy, vivid abstractions by Brian Hollister and M. Rheuban to Setsuko Joyce Nagatoshi's fawning, fan's-eye view of Capt. Picard from TV's "Star Trek."

In sculpture, the most striking works here are Russell McMillin's rustic metal meatballs. His large, crumpled balls of metal, flecked with gold inlay, elicit a curious combination of responses.

Are these examples of junk art imitating--and envying--natural forms, or are these deceptively light etudes in sculptural mass?

In a related way, Jim Sallenbach's humble, boxed works celebrate the simple profundity of found objects--cardboard, rocks and shells.

In contrast, Nik Fernandez's relief sculptures involve castings of faces enclosed in funky wood frames that look like makeshift altars. Given the titles "Love" and "Lost," the pieces can be interpreted as memorials to fractured romance.

The collage medium is neatly represented with friendly works by Catherine Barry Martin and Shirley Reger, whose "Guaranteed to Increase Your Skills" is a cut-and-paste job that seems to dismantle the promise of an art-by-mail course.

From the worthwhile small-packages department, Lydia Dickerson shows tiny photographs that have been hand-tinted, but with a rugged, unkempt hand instead of the dainty approach often used in hand-tinting. The splotchy patches of color on these nature scenes seem to imply the unruly forces of nature.

There are plenty of unadulterated niceties in the show. Working in watercolor, Deb Ryan shows soft, fluid interiors, while Karen Jollie deals in careful, crisply rendered landscape images.

Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin's pastels depict the buzz of an outdoor marketplace, while T. J. Convertino hangs out, subject-wise, at the beach. These are shamelessly kitschy images, including a humanized sun wearing sunglasses and protruding from the surface of the canvas, giving a topless sunbathing woman a lascivious wolf whistle.

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A corner of the gallery is devoted to feminist issues. Claudia Cron's image, drawn with an intentional comic-book crudity, shows salacious, cocktail-wielding men amid lanky women who are nude but for their high-heeled shoes. It takes aim at the sexist subtext of a particular male fantasy, as embodied by mass media.

Marylyn English's "Tulsa, Study of a Girl" is a portrait of a young girl studying in which the large central canvas is flanked by smaller canvases that indict gender-based biases in education. "Women in American History" finds Betsy Ross hard at work, sewing a flag, and "Girl's Chemistry" consists of a recipe for nut bread.

On more neutral political turf, Natalie Kahn's "Feminine Abstractions" depicts imagery of delicate, ambiguous folds. As with Georgia O'Keeffe's voluptuous flower paintings, they could be read as either poetic depictions of female anatomy--flesh and membrane--or more nonrepresentational images. The choice is in the mind of the viewer.

And so it goes in the exhibition, viewable either as a breezy summer romp or as a variety pack with a few surprises inside.

DETAILS

* WHAT: "Open Juried Competition."

* WHEN: Through July 27.

* WHERE: Century Gallery, 13000 Sayre St., Sylmar.

* CALL: (818) 362-3220.

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