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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | SIGHTS

Images, From Sensual to Subtle, Draw Crowds

Top musical groups add to aura of Ventura's annual ArtWalk, which displays a range of local works.

July 18, 1996|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As the teeming, meandering hordes last Saturday night discovered, Ventura ArtWalk is growing up and spreading out. There was much to see, in terms of fine art, crafts and window dressings on the casual walking tour, but the aural component of the biannual event expanded as well.

On the sloping stretch of California Street below City Hall, the first annual chalk festival--a humble, auspicious beginning--showed its transient wares, while the Peruvian strains of music by Markahuasi drew a swaying throng.

At the corner of Santa Clara and California streets, you could hear the Jim Calire Quartet issuing BBQ soul-jazz. They launched into a languid version of the J.J. Johnson ballad "Lament," while, in the nearby 66 California, sax player Med Flory--of Super Sax fame--slithered through a version of "All the Things You Are."

Elsewhere in town, the distant growl of race cars from the fairgrounds provided its usual Saturday night sonic underscore.

Appropriately enough for an event geared to showing art in the heart of the city, there was a buzz of activity in City Hall. Upstairs, the third floor space--which has served as an interim gallery and undoubtedly is the art space with the best view in town--drew a large crowd to its closing show.

On the second floor, Jane McKinney is showing more of her current series of spare pastels of impressively rendered, dreamy shrubs and tumbleweeds. Lee Hodges' show is a variety pack, including seascapes, interiors, landscapes and animals in mixed media.

Some stops on the ArtWalk map took visitors off the beaten path, such as the upstairs location of Mainstreet Architects and Planners, in the Realty Building on Main Street. Windows look out over the town, and the walls were hung with fine watercolors, many of which were pleasant, romantic views of Ventura.

*

Sauntering over to the Performance Studio, romanticism gave way to a harsher perspective with Julie Knudson's powerful, unflinching installation, "Limbo," dealing with sexism and Bible themes.

Passersby were audibly surprised as they walked by the window space with its dissected naked mannequin, drawn and quartered, dangling like an objectified marionette amid scrawled Bible verses.

Meanwhile, down and over at Art City, the first new exhibit in some months has settled into this friendly, ample gallery space. It is the third annual erotic show, "Erotikos Three." Subtlety, thankfully, is in effect, extending from Bill Kaderly's simple, evocative cut-outs, hinting at eros with a few discreet lines.

In photography, tight, fuzzy shots of entangled bodies by Kakine and Daniel Perez are ambiguous. Are these folds and contours definitively erogenous, or are we reading them wrong? The uncertainty is the message.

In one of the most unexpectedly sensual images in the gallery, Melinda F. Kelley's "Plum" coyly depicts a well-placed plum as a rump. Michael Helms' nudes are viewed as a series of sumptuous lines, or in his "mud series," are seen via a "primal-izing" effect.

Sculpturally, allusions to anatomy rather than explicit body parts are the norm. Kim Hughes creates cryptic fragments that suggest male sinew and torsos. The innate sensuality of Alexandra Morosco's "Quiver" has to do with the juxtaposition of smooth pink alabaster with a crinkly lead casing.

Art City dean Paul Lindhard deals sensitively with the veined texture of marble on "Picasso Girl" and, on a more ironic note, "The Golden Bicycle Seat." Tom Mageen's female nude, "Third Month," celebrates the underrated, swollen beauty of a pregnant figure.

Mixed materials converge wildly in Matt Harvey's "In Process," in which rough steel figures hold up scrolled wood planks on which a languid Cubist female nude is perched. Socio-sexual politics are addressed effectively in Gwendolyn Alley's "That Man." A dress shirt has been printed with a text speculating about life on the other side of the gender line.

Another conceptual ploy is underway in a far corner of the gallery. Alan Saller shows a couple of his pulpy, fleshy paintings, as well as a painting chopped into a jigsaw puzzle on the floor. It could be read as a satire of nude painting lore, in which discrete images of body parts--mostly female breasts--can be mixed and matched at will.

DETAILS

* WHAT: "Erotikos Three."

* WHERE: Art City, 31 Peking St. in Ventura.

* WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through Aug. 11.

* CALL: 648-1690.

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