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Paintings and Photos Emphasize the Erotic at Studio City Gallery

The Gail Michael Collection features works that are sometimes seductive and sometimes subtle.


Satisfying art experiences occur in the most unexpected places.

The Gail Michael Collection--downstairs an interior-design shop teeming with furniture and knickknacks for sale--has upstairs a roomy, nicely outfitted art space. The gallery offers refuge from the workaday thrum of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.

The current show, "The Erotic and the Sublime," leans more toward the former than the latter, but offers enough substantive art to warrant a look.

Nude studies by photographer Richard D'Amore, whose work is most prominently displayed, rely on the seductive properties of juxtaposition to work their effect. In one series of images, the artist superimposes nudes shot in a closed, ambiguous studio space. Further distancing the images from clarity, the surfaces are scratched in a faux archival manner, and the women often wear masks.

In other work here, D'Amore depicts nudes in unlikely places, as with the "Nude on Thames," a hand-tinted image in which the smooth, supple skin of the model contrasts with the setting, a gravelly beach in London. "Les Halle Nude" finds its subject amid urban Europe rubble, with an Old World building in the distance. With "Bed Pillow," a study in afternoon light falling in an empty room, there is an unexpected gust of subtle sensuality, minus nudes.

Subtlety is the element that separates Bruce Brown's photographs from D'Amore's. Brown's work focuses on vivid still-lifes of mannequins, but manages to generate a curious buzz of eroticism.

In these small-scale, closely cropped images, Brown creates sumptuous compositions out of tiny details--a shirt collar, for instance--of his lean, lifeless models. By so doing, the artist plays with our senses by dealing with a subject so plainly artificial. Eroticism, where is thy flesh?

Antonio Mendoza's digitally stitched collage works are over the top, managing to be giddy and sublime all at once. Repetitive motifs, visual echoes and reconstituted anatomy--often genitalia cloned--add up to an effect at once psychedelic and kaleidoscopic. But this work also conjures up a clear cultural reference to the tapestry effects of Indian art, as referred to in such playful titles as "Venus Penis" and "Krishna Venus."

On the more discreet end of the erotic-art spectrum, Victor Hugo Zayas shows delicate line drawings and oils on paper. Mahara Sinclaire's dripping, overlapping washes of watercolor emphasize the fluidity of her nude figures. Marlyn English's "Bathers" is a black-and-white pastel on crinkled, seemingly aged paper with a folk-art-like character.

"Predator," a pastel by Robin Palanker, bathes in ambiguity: What looks like two male lovers kissing takes on a sinister element, thanks to the title. Phyllis Green's sculptures create intrigue through the friction of soft, pillowy textures and the exoskeletal function of ceramic wares.

Eroticism is, of course, a highly subjective human sensation and a delicate, inexact art. The works making up "The Erotic and the Sublime" cover a wide enough gamut of ideas to give the exhibition a sense of balance and healthy diversity.

* "The Erotic and the Sublime" runs through Sept. 14 at the Gail Michael Collection, 12532 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. Call (818) 752-6080.

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