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ART: Ventura County | SIGHTS

A Worthy Sampler

Santa Barbara gallery's impressive first year of works prove diverse and compelling.


Even though it boasts a State Street address, Santa Barbara's most exciting new art space, the Manne Gallery, is off the beaten path in more ways than one. Nicely tucked away in a courtyard and off to the side of the Bistro Med restaurant, the gallery is like a hidden nest. Judging from the impressive work in the current anniversary show, a sampler of art from the first year in activity, it's on the right track.

The show includes pieces by the formidable painter and Ojai resident Michael Dvortcsak (reviewed here recently), and works by such notables as George Segal, Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Graham.

Segal's "Woman Sitting on Bed" is a small sculptural tableau seemingly fashioned from black tar, projecting an aura of psychic bleakness. Graham's piece, "Untitled No. 7," is a primitive-looking copper plaque, with a grimy patina, from which subtle relief images of female figures emerge, while Frankenthaler's abstract pieces convey raw elegance. Other artists celebrate diversity in their works. Sarah Brennan's "Transfigured Sky" is moodily dark, while her strangely compelling "Carpenter Bee," a gold leaf and oil on canvas, hums with entomological charm. Peter Alexander exerts a flamboyant hand on his velvet-based "Sargo."

Another small piece, Carlos Almaraz's "Beach Crash," is fittingly postcard-size, but depicts, in gloppy swipes of paint, a fiery accident on the sand. On the other end of the scale, Zele Mane's large, abstract mixed-media piece climbs the wall, with an ambivalent festivity.

Santa Barbara's contemporary gallery scene tends to wax and wane: The Manne story is an encouraging sign of health.

* "Anniversary Fiesta," through June 22 at the Manne Gallery, 1129 State St., Santa Barbara. Hours: noon-6 p.m., Tue.-Sun.; 564-5022.


The Art of Jazz: There has long been an affinity between the worlds of jazz and art, both being spontaneous expressions usually created on the fringes of mainstream culture. They also tend to be born in cramped quarters--studios and little clubs--tight spaces that can encourage energy rather than claustrophobia.

The affectionate link between the two is the subject of a small but intriguing show of paintings by Ernesto Seco, in the Green Morning bookstore in Santa Paula. Seco, of Santa Paula, spent some time in New York--the jazz capital of the world, no matter what anyone tells you--and embarked on a series of paintings that document musicians in action.

He has captured the swarthy, subterranean ambience of dimly lighted jazz clubs but, more importantly, the heady excitement of the music that reinvents itself night after night. These jazz images are not from the school that celebrates celebrity players but are loose-handed impressions of the work in motion.

We see hands close up, scampering on bass strings, the yellow gleam of a trumpet bell held at a right angle to a musician's head. A saxophone, golden against a musician's darkened frame, is cradled like a baby, and a drummer's stick is poised midair, ready to ride the cymbal.

Seco's series, humble but evocative, is impressionistic art with a well-cocked ear. It's art you can almost hear.

* "Duende," paintings by Ernesto Seco, through Saturday at Green Morning Books, 106 S. 10th St., Santa Paula. Hours: Thur.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 525-6395.


Group of Groups: The annual Visual Arts Show at Thousand Oaks Community Gallery is pleasantly pell-mell, a gathering of work by artists associated with schools and art groups in the area. Trying to find common ground is futile, but there are bright moments in the thicket.

Among the highlights: Jacqueline Heinemann's vivid collages, Terry Spehar-Fahey's lyrical painting of eucalyptus trees, Peggy Berry's oddly appealing, oddly angled "Chair," Deborah Davis' photograph of Tijuana hues, and Matt Croteau's hardly subtle but earnestly crafted sculptural allegories regarding the loss of innocence.

* 7th Annual Visual Arts Show, through Sat. at Thousand Oaks Community Gallery, (adjacent to Newbury Park Branch Library), 2331 Borchard Road, Newbury Park. Hours: 1-5 p.m., Thur.-Sun. 498-4390.

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