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Obsessiveness at Heart of Three Exhibitions


Three shows are currently at Track 16 Gallery: "Author, Author," an array of photographs of writers, curated by George Meredith from his own collection; shotgun art and miscellaneous paintings by William Burroughs, shown in cooperation with Robert Berman Gallery; and "Flappenings and Huxus," a selection of Fluxus paraphernalia, organized by Steven Leiber. The more than usually ponderous amalgamation works quite beautifully as an orgy of obsessiveness.

It also creates a strange kind of geometric progression, in terms of each show's relationship to text or its absence. In Meredith's show, a tiny carte de visite of Charles Dickens rubs up against a fantastic image of Aldous Huxley by George Platt Lynes, a luscious pastel of a flapper-esque Claire Booth Luce and a spectacular Cornell Capa shot of Boris Pasternak, toasting his wife and friends even as he was held captive by the Soviet government.

It's fascinating to speculate on the extent to which these images were constructed by their writer-subjects in the complete absence of language. Particularly ironic is an image of Jack Kerouac, listening to himself on the radio, as if enraptured by the sound of his own voice.

The Burroughs' show is similarly haunted by words that can't be heard or are otherwise missing, though immediately palpable. Burroughs' madly smeared and scrawled canvases and pieces of paper, studded with images cut out of magazines or newspapers, echo the elegant delirium of his famous literary works. The shotgun paintings--literally wounded by bullet holes--seem like stories with missing bits, their logic all but concealed behind a perforated scrim.

The Fluxus show, on the contrary, is stuffed full of letters, phrases, word-games and all manner of linguistic gymnastics. This loosely knit group of artists, writers and performers, renowned for aestheticizing every aspect of their daily lives, generated massive amounts of paper in the process. Here are mailing lists, fliers, manifestoes, annotated matchbook covers, business cards, personal stationery, custom-designed postage stamps and so on.

Most seductive of all is the typography favored by George Maciunas and company, which mixes up nostalgia and an already moribund Futurism into something that the popular media--with its taste for all things retro--will probably snap up in about a millisecond.

* Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 264-4678, through Aug. 31. Closed Sunday and Monday.


Patterns: "Con-structured," a group show organized by Peter Frank at Gallery 825, spotlights new geometric painting and sculpture produced in Los Angeles. While this premise isn't even peripherally hip, especially as compared to the other summer group shows around town, it is solid. The show is likewise filled with serious, mostly under-recognized artists.

The paintings of Marion Stiebel Siciliano certainly fall within this latter category. "The Humming Heart," a tondo rimmed with concentric circles of screamingly bright rainbow colors, could be a mathematical treatise, a cosmological diagram or an advertisement for Excedrin, with its massive letter "E" floating serenely through a bluish haze. Like Karen Carson's work, Siciliano's walks a tightrope between spirituality and a love of the material world, but it does so without the former's sometime irksome self-consciousness.

Also notable are Doug Meyer's fine, dark-toned abstractions, which are decorative and fatalistic all at once, and David Collis' witty abstractions, which attest to today's renaissance of Peter Halley-esque imagery.

Tony DeLap's slyly heroic painting-objects are, as always, instructive. Would-be one-liners, they militate against their own suavity, insisting upon hard work instead of the usual cheap thrills.

* Gallery 825, 825 N. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 652-8272, through Friday.


Cruising: At Dan Bernier Gallery, a nice group show called "On the Border"--I suppose because the young artists in it come from Switzerland, Britain, Greece and elsewhere--actually has very little to do with territory or nationality, and everything to do with degrees of simulation.

A sliding scale runs the gamut from the hyper-real (Fischli and Weiss' polyurethane Oreo cookie box and pair of oranges) to the scale model (Julian Opie's tiny farmhouse and barn, which owes more to Disneyland than to Joel Shapiro) and to the put-on (video maven Alex Bag's semi-hilarious and purposely cheesy sendups of an impressionable art student, a Bjork fan and a phone sex operator). Miltos Manetas' eerie paintings, which look like early Rothko but are in fact deadpan depictions of the top of a closed Powerbook, work particularly well here, blurring the borders between illusion and the real.

In the end, however, the show isn't about particular ideas, but about cruising, which isn't a bad thing at all. It's a rare chance to check out work by this month's crop of art magazine-approved, international up-and-comers, which usually--and unfortunately--don't make it as far as L.A.

* Dan Bernier Gallery, 3026 1/2 Nebraska Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 264-4882, through Saturday.

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