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Artistic Circles

Painters explore new options in colorful mandala-based works and kitschy faces on vinyl records.


For the uninitiated visitor to the Bigoudi International beauty salon/art gallery in Woodland Hills, something in the art watching process might initially go awry. A bit of attitude adjustment may be necessary to fully appreciate art in an environment where coiffures are being manipulated.

But it's worth the effort. This space has featured some of the more provocative art seen in the Valley, displayed respectfully on ample wall space.

Take, for example, the striking, current exhibition of mandala-based artworks by Paulina A. Granados. Born in Chile and now based in Los Angeles, Granados has plunged with fervor into her Mandala Series, obviously intrigued by the visual and symbolic potential for expression in this ancient Indian form. The undulating, circular patterns of the mandala (Sanskrit for "circle") serve as artistic and spiritual expression, a source of meditation and a fount of symbolism.

As much as the mandala is the foundation of this work, Granados is hardly a purist in her approach. By freely merging and literally layering imagery from different religions and cultures, she brings an exploratory and sometimes lighthearted approach to the making of mandalas.

There seems to be an ecumenical subplot at work here. Mayan, Buddhist, Jewish, Asian and Native American cultures are touched on in works such as "The Mayan Factor--the Face of Mars" and "Navaho Sand Painting--Male Shooting Chant." The Jewish Star of David also appears as a recurring motif.

Even the influence of Catholicism enters into the picture, with "Catholic Rose Window." Here, Granados draws a link between the stained-glass window tradition of Christian art and architecture and ritualistic art from other, non-western traditions.

Yet, whatever the artist's noble intentions in cutting across religious boundaries, the pieces are appealing as art for its own sake as well. In true mandala fashion, Granados celebrates the elements of symmetry and intricate layering with these canvases, creating works that are both decorative and sublime.

Hers is an additive process, stitching together different strands of imagery rather than working with the conventional figure-to-ground relationship of much western art. The pieces end up with a kaleidoscopic effect, composed of vivid bits of color and form woven into an ultimately abstract design. You might even say the effect is hypnotic.


On the Record: No one goes into the Art Experience, the Studio City gallery run by and featuring the art of Susan Manders, with expectations of sobriety or angst-venting. Hers is an unabashedly frothy aesthetic, a private domain of color-splashed faces, of grinning cosmopolites in festively hued urban scenes where danger and dread have taken a holiday. Nightclubbing, lovers in love, poodles and kick boxing (with a smile): These are a few of her favorite things.

Currently, Manders is showing a new series of faces painted directly onto vinyl records, in a show punningly dubbed "Record-Breaking Art." These round-format pieces dangle in the window, twirling slowly in the air-conditioner breeze, showing off her cheery, kitsch-faced women speckled with little hearts and flowers.

You could say that she has either defaced these records with paint, or that she has granted new artistic life to a medium that slipped into semi-dormancy with the takeover of the CD in the music reproduction world. Because of its marginalization, vinyl has now been elevated to a status of folklore, something to fetishize, which adds a dimension of interest to Manders' art on a material level.

No need to over-analyze here, however--this is a lighthearted summer show. It reminds at least one visitor of lazy afternoons in youth spent putting paint on pieces of paper--or vinyl albums--as they spun on the family hi-fi, and catching heck for it. Yesterday's mischief is today's innocent post-modern prank.

* Susan Manders, "Record-Breaking Art," through July 7 at Art Experience Gallery, 11830 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. Gallery hours: 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m.-noon, Wednesday and Saturday; (818) 506-7804.



Exhibit--Paulina A. Granados, at Bigoudi International, 21720 Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills. Gallery hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday; (818) 887-3627.

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