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Art Just for the Fun of It at Experience in Studio City

With its bright, over-the-top works, the gallery offers a summertime diversion worth savoring.


Artist and art teacher Susan Manders wants to create art for fun lovers, and do it with dignity intact. A tall order, to be sure, but she seems to pull it off, all from the comforts of the Art Experience, the humble storefront gallery that she has maintained in Studio City for 18 years.

Visitors know immediately that this is neither a typical Ventura Boulevard address nor an art gallery in the demure, formal sense. An outlandishly colorful Wonder Woman-like cutout is perched outside the front door, scrawled with the plea, "Oh, please come on in, and welcome."

On a summer's day, when the art scene in the Valley has hit a brief lull, it's tough to resist the invitation.

Inside, the gallery/classroom is pleasantly chaotic, cluttered with Manders' handiwork in various media. She recently has been broaching electronic media via video, and the gallery shows touches of assemblage and three-dimensional elements attached to paintings--a Ken doll, flowers, swatches of lace, for an extra measure of playful absurdity.

Mostly, though, painting is her focus, and joie de vivre is her goal. In these paintings, a vivid, flamboyant use of color keeps the visual volume up. The subject, usually, is social and romantic activity, and the giddy discolorations and swishing brush strokes could be described as a kind of pop fauvism, without the intellectual baggage.

Manders is not averse to silly detours--into the world of mermaids and poodles on skateboards. At times, she creates shaped paintings, as with an image of a couple on a love seat, basking in the glow of an overhead halo. Telltale phrases, usually romantic--such as "Love is a danger of a different kind. It's such an obsession and I want you . . . and I want you . . . and . . ."--will pop up to lend a textual spin to an image.

No overt political or aesthetic agendas come out of Manders' art. No isms are addressed or debunked. It's just feel-good art, without apology--and just skillful and over the top enough to actually give feel-good a good name.

* Susan Manders, at the Art Experience, 11830 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City; (818) 506-7804.


Site Specifics: Earlier this summer, Javier Granados and Bernardo Martinez showed their collaborative works--generally erotic conceptual pieces based on styles and works of art-history icons--at the Granados 2 Gallery in Atwater Village. After that show closed, the artists took many of their pieces, including some great big ones, to the larger space of the Bigoudi International Salon in Woodland Hills, which has hosted shows curated by Granados.

Controversy immediately flared up, and a few of the large pieces were taken down as a partial concession to patrons' complaints about presentation of explicit female anatomy. What a difference a venue makes. One is a dedicated art gallery, small and out of the way, open at odd hours and appealing to an art-world crowd. The other space is public space and a beauty salon to boot.

There are still plenty of artworks left on view through August at Bigoudi, and the meeting of art and site makes for some interesting cultural cross-fire. The fact that the salon traffics in make-overs and cosmetic maintenance creates a nice irony when looking at works like "De Chirico's Wrap," with its masked female figure. Even more apt is "Modigliani's Sink"--the lanky, languid nude has her hair in a sink, ready for washing.

Visible but on the far back wall of the salon is "Magritte's Headers," a relatively faithful re-creation of the Magritte painting in which a nude female torso is superimposed on a face. Where the original painting buzzed with Freudian overtones and commented on the dehumanizing nature of the libidinal engine, this painting seems more like a casual toss-off, a nude for nudity's sake.

Granados' and Martinez's works tend to walk the line between graphic design ideas and conceptual treatments, in which the actual paintings are coyly torn or otherwise violated, to peel back art's illusion. In "Picasso's Flame," a muted painting of mythical figures is torn to teasingly reveal a more vivid color canvas below.

And then, on the ample end of the spectrum, we find "Botero's Chase," which depicts a bountiful woman and a canvas teasingly stripped back at the top, but revealing nothing except the act of peeling. Not surprisingly, the Botero-esque figure survived the censors' scorn. Everybody loves a Botero. Or so we assume.

* Javier Granados and Bernardo Martinez, "Logos 2," through Aug. 31, at Bigoudi International, 21720 Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills. Hours: Tues-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; (213) 662-9930.

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