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'Riches' Spins Its Gold From Everyday Straw

October 14, 1996|CATHY CURTIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Flawed but intentionally pathetic in a laugh-out-loud way, Terri Friedman's "Sort of (Rough Draft)" is the text of a personal ad, writ large--complete with second thoughts and cross-outs--on the wall. Next to the word "thin," she adds "not exactly," then changes it to "not remotely." And so on, describing her desire to meet a man--or maybe an art dealer.

For all the real-life fudging, compromising, self-doubt and daydreaming, the piece seems ludicrously over-scaled and tries too hard to be witty.

Other work in the show is by Michael McManus (whose East-meets-West "American Prayer Series" collages were reviewed last spring), color-block painter Carlos Estrada-Vega and Tim Nolan. Nolan weds a minimalist aesthetic to bland domestic materials (lawn chair webbing, clothesline) without quite finding the right form or scale to consummate the marriage.

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In the small rear gallery, "Body Archaeology From 'The Anatomy Lesson' " showcases the work of Joyce Cutler-Shaw, artist-in-residence at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Among her detailed, spidery drawings are images of elderly cadavers, their skin occasionally zipped open to expose blood and tissue.

Knotted and gnarled skeletons sometimes appear as headless "monsters" in these sketches--an effect the artist clearly intended. She writes (in a wall text) about the disembodied aspect of medical science, from the lack of whole body images in Gray's Anatomy to contemporary medical imaging systems that reduce the body to an image, seen but not touched.

When Cutler-Shaw ventures into territory identified more with contemporary art than illustration, she falters. The self-portrait photographs overlaid with images from the Wide World of Medicine (including Rembrandt's painting "The Anatomy of Dr. Tulp" and a Benetton ad showing a newborn infant) and the lab coats covered with drawings of fetuses and infants are too literal-minded, as are the artist's flat-footed poems.

The drawings on paper much more effectively represent Cutler-Shaw's intense curiosity about the aging body, her gravely humanistic pursuit of the unknown and unknowable. It is as if her preoccupation with noting details of bodies on each side of the divide of death could yield insight into that twilight zone, in almost a literally subcutaneous way.

* "An Embarrassment of Riches" and "Joyce Cutler-Shaw: Body Archaeology From 'The Anatomy Lesson,' " through Nov. 17 at the Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main St. Hours: Noon-6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, noon-8 p.m. Thursday, noon-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $3; $2 students, seniors. (714) 374-1650.

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If you happen to be anywhere near the Santora Building in downtown Santa Ana Friday or Saturday and feel like having a Dr. Ruth-style giggle, drop into the Meta Gallery to see Laurie Hassold and Jeff Gillette's mini-video show, "Mutual Submission (An Intimate Collaboration)."

In one of these feather-light pieces, monitors facing each other at a distance of about 6 inches display the artists' sexual organs, one still, the other suggestively bouncing--as if the monitors were engaged in a virtual sex act. In another piece, double monitors zero in on each artist's back being squeezed rhythmically by the other's arms, accompanied by carefully timed groans and yelps. The piece mocks the clinical gravity of sex manuals, fantasies of absolutely equal sexual pleasure and the viewer's willingness to watch even the most farfetched simulacrum of sex.

* "Mutual Submission (An Intimate Collaboration)," through Saturday at Meta Gallery, 207 N. Broadway, Suite E, Santa Ana. Hours: Noon-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission free. (714) 836-6858.

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