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ART: Ventura County | SIGHTS

The Right Place at the Right Time

May 22, 1997|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Down thrift-shop way, just a shout from San Buenvaventura Mission and Peirano's Market, you'll find the latest addition to the Ventura art scene. Welcome to Spork Orbit, a kitsch emporium and art gallery in one not-so-tidy, compact package.

Here's a fine place to peruse a selection of retro-bachelor-pad furniture--kidney-shaped coffee tables and ash trays, lounge-culture artifacts and previously owned vinyl records ("Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits," scratches and all, was playing one afternoon last week). Advertising "Past Modernist Furnishings for the Home of Tomorrow," it's also a good place to find items exclusively in or including the color lime green.

And, not insignificantly, its walls also seem a good home for art, that creature ever in need of nurturing. The current featured artist, Ahbe Sulit, seems ideally suited to the environment.

Sulit serves up a freewheeling artistic agenda, lunging at ideas both silly and sublime. The artist, born in the Philippines, is a sometime resident of New York City, but his parents reside in Ventura. He manages to mix references to religious art (Eastern division), street art, art historical in jokes (i.e. Gauguin-ish beauties turning into mermaids) and body-love eroticism.

Paintings are splashed with glitter and spangly objects. The meditative patterns of mandala-like forms and the apparent sincerity of "Sister Buddha" appear alongside the fluorescent bodybuilder in "Dumb Blonde." "Dad" goes in another direction entirely, with its crude, chunky modeling.

Surprisingly, he manages to do all this without succumbing to the kind of ironic glibness that takes the fun out of fun. He's one artist who benefits from the aura of friendly anarchy in Spork Orbit--Johnny Cash and all.

* Ahbe Sulit, "One Man With a Little Girl Show," through May 26 at Spork Orbit, 218 E. Main St. in Ventura. Gallery hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. 643-5416.

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