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Pre-Season Show : Century Gallery ushers in the fall with 'Northeast Invitational.'


August melts into September, and the cultural and academic programs lurch back into gear. Into that preseason transition period comes "Northeast Invitational" at Century Gallery in Sylmar. This gallery space, tucked away on the northeastern fringe of the Valley, is known for its impressive, coherent exhibitions, but this one is something else--a bit of filler before the real action begins.

That's not entirely a bad thing, considering the importance of keeping a good art space, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, from languishing in its off-season. For the show, artists have been culled from the Burbank Art Assn., the Eagle Rock Art Assn., the San Fernando Valley Art Club and the Santa Clarita Valley Art Assn. The result is a mild-mannered hodgepodge with a few standout pieces.

Local color comes through in different ways, including Pong Aponyavat's "Desert Jewels," a glimmering impressionist's view of the city, viewed from the outlying mountainside. Kate Pedigo's "Eagle Rock" is a lithograph image of the rock itself, not the community.

One of the more disarmingly strange pieces in the gallery is Billy Baumann's "Gunsight Canyon Panorama-Lake Powell." Surrealism abuts everyday reality in the depiction of tourists waving at each other from distant points on this barren, misshapen landscape. They appear as denim-donning aliens on alien terrain, in a place within easy driving distance.

Some of the artists take on venerable art traditions from odd angles. B.J. Glowacki's "Viewing Madonna From Afar" appears as a candied Op Art-like design, into which a faintly discernible image of the Madonna is tucked.

Neoclassical realism is the painterly mode of Norvel Lewis' "Summer," a fitting-enough mascot image in this show, signifying summer's end. In the long picture frame is a gathering of languid women who seem to have been airlifted across time from Greek antiquity. They look less withered by innate sensuality than by the smoggy heat of, say, the Valley in late August. Or is that the weather talking?

* "Northeast Invitational," through Sept. 14 at Century Gallery, 13000 Sayre St. in Sylmar. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday; (818) 362-3220.


Two- and Three-Dimensional: Speaking of the eastern fringe of the Valley, the art oasis that is the Village Square Gallery in Montrose recently opened a two-person, media-bridging show. With Zolita Serdlove's two-dimensional variety pack of works and Patrick Crabb's composite ceramic sculptures and assemblages, there's plenty to admire.

Sverdlove showed at the Orlando Gallery earlier this year but presents a new batch of work here. Diversity is the key in a selection ranging from tiny monoprints, offering fleeting thumbnail impressions, to pleasantly rambling odes to Santa Barbara and Big Sur.

The best painting here may be "Six Pack," a rough-hewn painting of a six-pack of beer that recalls Wayne Thiebaud's loving portraits of icing-laden cakes. "Earthquake Readiness Kit," another sly, bottle-related work, is a small etching depicting bottles designed for survival rather than as fodder for a still-life study.

Crabb's sculptures, often pieced together from broken, manipulated and re-formed fragments of clay, are grouped under such series titles as the "kiln relic series," the "shard tri-pod series," and the "spirit basket series." They appear as complex, ritualistic vessels of unclear origin or function. "Matrilineal" finds a female face surrounded by a carefully designed assemblage of pieces and shapes.

With these unorthodox pieces, Crabb blends references to native cultures and his crafty way with the ceramic medium.

* Patrick Crabb and Zolita Sverdlove, through Sept. 27 at Village Square Gallery, 2418 Honolulu Ave. Suite C, Montrose. Gallery hours: 1-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; (818) 244-4257.

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