YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Tossed and Found

Assemblages of objects from natural and urban landscapes come together under one 'Umbrella.'


Over at Seven Sainctuaries, that secret garden among art spaces in the Valley, junk is king these days. And therein lies the charm. "The Alchemist's Umbrella," the most ambitious undertaking yet in this gallery, is a group show celebrating found-object assemblages.

Artists who dared to draw on materials outside the usual art resources, notably Marcel Duchamp and the Surrealists early in this century, brought such things as a toilet into the gallery. That served as a radical Modernist gesture, a way of questioning art's cherished traditions.

Far from being a dead genre, found-object work continues to be a relevant artistic option as the century closes.

In part, such work can establish a viable connection between the illusory world of art and the "real" world. It can also epitomize the art-making process, in which ideas, technique and manifestations are brought together in an alchemical marriage. Voila, art.

The most exciting art here is by Jennifer Parker, whose own found-object angle is deceptive, in that she likes to create twisted versions of things found in nature. Her pieces appear strikingly simple, but, on closer inspection, are inquiries into the essential nature of things.

Through it all, Parker maintains a lucid deadpan humor, supplying tidbits of explanation to spell out her comedic motives. "Still Born/Wish I Could Fly," for instance, finds a pair of wings attached to a block of wood. According to her text, what we see is the result of a baby bird accidentally born inside a 2-by-4.

To find her materials, Parker rummages through both the natural and the urban landscape, creating a grass welcome mat, a two-headed duck and surreal bullhorns. "Landless," subtitled "Mildred in a Suitcase," is a trunk full of bleached cow bones that she rescued from the trash in Manhattan's meat district.

Parker's aesthetic might be dubbed unnatural naturalism. Underscoring her outlandish work is a rueful sense of the contemporary, urbanized mind unable to comprehend, and long out of touch with, the forces of nature.

Steven Sciscenti creates impressive wall pieces with a mock-archeological air. He constructs large slabs of slate containing small glass lenses through which we peer at a stone or a rusty bolt, elevating the importance of these utilitarian items. A mordant yet elegant quality graces a piece like his "Tomb."

Sculptor Roman Lezo works in another direction entirely, concocting extravagant assemblages from detritus, whether it's the rickety piping holding a bucket in "Fountain of Youth" or the forbidding door structure in "Door of Fear." A tiny music box apparatus, playing Brahms' "Lullabye," is attached to the piece called "Garibaldi's Dream," and his "Nightmare of a Hollywood Editor" is reminiscent of Duchamp's toilet humor--it's a funky facsimile of a movie-editing machine, equipped with toilet paper instead of film.

A reference to Cubism bubbles up in the work of Leslie Caldera via her free-flowing compositions of objects and shapes, as well as recurring interest in musical elements. An art history resonance can be found in other works here. Lezo's "This is Not What You Think (IT IS)" nods to Magritte's famous reality-questioning work, "The Treachery (or Perfidy) of Images."

Personal Catholic shrines are revisited, and not necessarily with irreverence, by Felipe Flores, and Ivan Morley shows strange paintings in which ambiguous objects float, Klee-ishly, in cosmic space.


"The Alchemist's Umbrella," through March 29 at Seven Sainctuaries, 14106 Ventura Blvd, Nos. 102 and 105, Sherman Oaks. Wed.-Sun., noon-5 p.m. (818) 990-7049.

Los Angeles Times Articles