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VALLEY WEEKEND | SIGHTS

'Eclectic' a Mixed Bag at the Finegood

Visitors who look closely can find a few common themes among the exhibition's varied offerings.

September 19, 1996|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Eclectic is--definitely and without apology--the operative word in the exhibition called "Eclectic Expressions" at the Finegood Gallery. This is a multi-style, multimedia show that ventures in all directions at once, in two and three dimensions.

Even so, viewers will find themes threading through the work. For instance, we find varying approaches to the figure in sculpture. Karen Coburn concocts mythical figurines while Christa Zinner deals in more conventional nude figures, with an assured hand.

In a sense, Linda West craftily splits the difference between two and three dimensions with her unorthodox relief sculptures. Her human forms, painted in multicolored patterns, writhe and cut smart figures on the wall. At times, they defy the nature of their material, as with the painted cast aluminum work, made to emulate the rough, pulpy quality of clay.

The most abstract sculpture in the show comes from Richard Mann, who makes pieces out of twisting bands of plexiglass. These pieces, like wind-swept lengths of ribbon, are decorated with confetti-like debris.

Painter Christopher Brennan is to the point of obsession with details, which translates to painterly intrigue. He shows weirdly close, finely rendered still-lifes, from a sweating cherub statue to a still-life with fruit. In contrast, Brennan, in the back of the gallery, comes off more as a machine fetishist, offering gleaming portraits of a motorcycle and a Corvette.

In a similar way, Dorothy Churchill-Johnson's paintings are vivid yet stylized extreme close-ups of plant life. But she avoids the usual floral pleasantries, depicting fallen blossoms or forbidding, thorny cacti viewed at point-blank range. Kalman Aron's paintings vary from understated landscapes and travel scenes to anecdotal portraits of men in the throes of chess games.

Tucked away in the back room of the gallery are some of the more eye-grabbing, multimedia works. Assemblage artist Lezlie Kussin makes often ham-fisted statements in the sociopolitical arena, as with the large sculpture "Fallen Icons," which consumes much of the room's floor space. Here we find a bedraggled, deflated Statue of Liberty, slumped in an unceremonious heap after falling from her pedestal--felled by social decay.

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In her art, Kussin wears her polemics on her sleeve. But overstatement is tempered by visual cleverness and a provocative way of juxtaposing imagery. "Child's Play" is a trunk that is packed with toy weapons, the stuff of young minds at play, but with an obvious real-world chill.

"Packed for Lunch" uses old metal school lunch boxes, a plainly nostalgic material evoking lost innocence. But the white-bread sandwiches and fruit are set off by the appearance of drug paraphernalia and a pack of Camels. Inside these kitschy lunch boxes, collages of magazine clippings and headlines paint a picture of a nastier social fabric--full of violence, unrest and racism--awaiting the students once released from their academic nests.

Joshua Mann's notion of assemblage is, in comparison, of the strong, quiet sort. Here, he shows a series of "Thoughts"--subtle post-Joseph Cornell boxes into which we peek and find scenes that celebrate their own mysterious nature. Ambiguous hints of eroticism and wistful family portraiture are contained within cement blocks, as if we're privy to forbidden knowledge that we don't quite understand.

The Finegood Gallery, at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills, remains among the finer venues for art in the Valley, blessed with a generous modular gallery space and intimate lighting. Suffice to say, the gallery nicely accommodates the current group of aesthetics. It would be a mistake to try to unearth more curatorial intention than really exists: It is recommendation enough to say that the work in "Eclectic Expressions" is, definitively, eclectically expressive.

DETAILS

* WHAT: "Eclectic Expressions."

* WHEN: Through Oct. 13. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

* WHERE: The Finegood Gallery, 22622 Vanowen St. in West Hills.

* CALL: (818) 587-3218.

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