Los Angeles-based artist Kirk Saber is not one to accept the painting process at face value. As seen in his exhibition at Gallery One One One, Saber relies on an assortment of strategies to build up his art, only to tear it down and reinvent it.
Essentially, he's using the techniques of deconstructivism in search of a new means of expression. By now, the will to deconstruct in contemporary art has been around long enough that its effects can seem gimmicky.
But Saber has enough fresh ideas--as well as healthy respect for his elders--that the work makes a strong, if somewhat zany, statement.
At times Saber paints an image and then takes multiple photographs of said image, piecing them back together in a jagged collage, a technique reminiscent of David Hockney's Polaroid pieces, in which the artist assembled numerous photos of a given subject into a dizzying mosaic.
A natural precedent for this kind of image manipulation is Cubism, with its treatment of multiple perspectives and planes. Saber's post-Cubist instincts are at work in pieces such as "Dora Marr" and "Standing Nude," in which the figure is depicted with piled-up photographs, resembling overlapping tiles in a mosaic.
Often, Saber makes references to well-known artists or idioms in art history, as in his Jasper Johns-ish American flag, a torn and tattered emblem with the ironic text, "We're Holding Together Just Fine."
"Matisse's Dance and Music" presents a familiar dancing sprite, a la Matisse, represented by fragmented photos. The fragmentation theme continues with "Portrait of a Model," in which color sections are mixed in with black and white patches.
It's as if bits of sketches and finished, full-color renderings are vying for space in the composition.
More unorthodox yet, "Nothing to Wear" depicts a female figure made of pieced-together square canvases, crudely bolted to the wall. The gallery itself becomes part of the arsenal of tools in the artist's working process.
In his "Warrior" series, Saber depicts Africans in warrior face paint in the extreme foreground, set into unexpected scenes--in a kitchen, in front of an abstract painting at the Museum of Modern Art, or with San Vicente Boulevard in the background.
It seems Saber is in the midst of an evolutionary phase, experimenting with new ways to break old habits. If the results are tentative at this point, the art also contains the excitement of discovery. He's someone to keep an eye on.
* Kirk Saber, "Recent Works--(Half Full)," through Feb. 6 at Gallery One One One, 111 Dos Caminos, Ventura. Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 641-0111.
Watercolor Idylls: Charlene Miller's paintings, at the Buenaventura Gallery in a show called "Times and Places," demonstrate an admirably light hand in the watercolor medium, as well as a variety of interests. The subject matter varies, from the floral frills of "Pink Protrusion" to depictions of arid California terrain.
In "Shadowlands," dramatic shadows are cast by rock formations in a canyon, celebrating a landscape at once majestic and desolate. Closer to home, "Scene III--Ventura County" is a triptych that stacks its images vertically, like layers of indigenous life, from the sea to tidy, tilled rows of a farm, to a mountain-ringed landscape.
Meanwhile, tucked away in a back room, Ledlie Corse shows impressive small still-life paintings, rich in color yet stark in lighting.
* Charlene Miller, through Feb. 14 at Buenaventura Gallery, 700 E. Santa Clara St., Ventura. Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 648-1235.