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ART REVIEWS

Creating a Package With More Than Meets the Eye

November 05, 1996|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At the Post gallery, a solo show by Jason Rogenes and a group exhibition titled "Space Space" strike just the right balance between levity and gravity. Casual, offhand and unpretentious, this fine pair of exhibitions emphasizes potential.

Its paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings adapt to whatever level of seriousness a viewer brings to them. For example, Rogenes' installation in the upstairs gallery can be seen as a grim meditation on modern life's tenuousness or as a giddy celebration of the sci-fi theatrics of our disposable culture.

Either way, "Project 5.09e" consists of a fairly symmetrical tower of polystyrene packaging material, stacked as if it's a contemporary model of ancient Babel's mythical monument to chaos. Lighted by eight fluorescent tubes hanging unevenly from the silver ceiling, this lightweight structure stands in a room whose walls and floor are completely covered with a layer of neatly taped cardboard.

Flagrantly fake, like a prop for a summer camp skit, Rogenes' installation is just a little too eerie to be dismissed as harmless diversion. Although its throwaway materials undercut overly serious interpretations, the fact that polystyrene will probably outlast bronze gives the work a menacing undercurrent.

Likewise, the group show downstairs would be all fun and games if it weren't for its conspiratorial undertow. Organized and beautifully installed by Santa Barbara art dealer Steve Hartzog, these 15 pieces by Rogenes, Chris Wilder, Halsey Rodman, Carlos Mollura, Andrea Bowers and Adam Ross give physical form to the lurking suspicion that there's more to the world than we think.

Greater than the sum of its parts, "Space Space" eschews hard evidence and convincing argumentation in favor of bare hints and slim intuitions. Together, the two shows convey potentially weighty ideas without getting heavy-handed.

* Post, 1904 E. 7th Place, (213) 488-3379, through Nov. 16. Closed Sundays-Tuesdays.

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World View: In 1928, German photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch published a book of sharply focused photographs of plants, animals and architecture, titled "Die Welt ist schon" (The World Is Beautiful). Since 1993, L.A.-based artist Christopher Williams has been making a large edition of photos based on Renger-Patzsch's text. Titled "For Example: Die Welt ist schon (Revision 7)," the latest installment of Williams' ongoing project is as pretentious and prissy as any academic art being made today.

The only element that binds Williams' stock photos together is the reference--in German--to Renger-Patzsch's publication. Otherwise, the 19 photos at Margo Leavin Gallery resemble the travelogue of a fastidious if relentlessly uninteresting tourist.

Included are three images of an office building in Senegal, a generic Spanish landscape, another from the Canary Islands, a grain mill in Rotterdam, four close-ups of an Italian typewriter and two prints depicting a German phonograph.

Williams' itinerary stands out as the most exciting element of his overly bookish exhibition. Like other Conceptualists beholden to the most tedious aspects of Teutonic theorizing, Williams makes the world look less interesting--and a lot less beautiful--than it actually is.

* Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., (310) 273-0603, through Nov. 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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