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LACE Annuale Plays It a Bit Too Safe

September 15, 1997|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This year's installment of the LACE Annuale takes so few risks that you just might forget having seen it. Put together from an open pool of applicants by Elizabeth Armstrong, a curator at San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art, this tedious show looks as if its works were selected because they looked like the things people are used to seeing in publicly funded art institutions.

Aside from Isabell Heimerdinger's mildly intriguing C-prints of movie scenes from which the actors have been eliminated, and Shirley Tse's promising sculptures made of plastic packaging materials, the objects by the seven other emerging L.A.-based artists are too visually inert to infuse much vitality into the exhausted ideas on which they're based.

Although the concept behind Ashley Thorner's "Earthworm Sleeping Bags" sounds funny, viewing more than a dozen dead worms stuck into pocket-size satchels made of mohair isn't very interesting.

Likewise, the stale claim that painting is dead has no resonance today, nor do Amy Green's timid attempts to preserve its mummified simulacrum in cast rubber and aluminum. At least Allan McCollum's painted plaster surrogates looked good when they did the same thing 10 years ago.

Carole Kim's "The Perishable Cherishable Collection" and catalog represent the last gasp of art-as-therapeutic-social-service. For this piece, the artist asked various people to give her a personal memento accompanied by a note, explaining the keepsake's significance. As an art project, such public closet-cleaning conveys little more that sappy sentimentality.

As a whole, the 1997 Annuale appears to be more concerned to cover its bases than to take chances with unconventional art or untested ideas. As many media as artists are displayed, suggesting that the juror-curator didn't want to appear to favor a particular medium but to endorse the most superficial sort of diversity.

To her credit, Armstrong makes a pertinent point by including seven women and only two men. Unfortunately, the images by Edgar Arceneaux and John Demos--respectively addressing aspects of African American and Asian American identities--have the presence of tokens.

While such cautious, keep-everyone-happy behavior surely protects the jobs of bureaucrats and arts professionals working within institutions, it also makes for a boring exhibition.

* LACE, 6522 Hollywood Blvd., (213) 957-1777, through Nov. 2. Closed Sundays-Tuesdays.

*

Marking Time: Initially, very little seems to link Ginny Bishton's dazzling rainbow of 4,000 photographs of individual fruits and vegetables and her pair of abstract paintings on paper that consist of thick, clotted lines abuzz with visual energy. The former resembles a miniaturized version of a supermarket's well-stocked produce section, and the latter look like the lines a prisoner might make if she were marking the seconds, instead of the days, of her incarceration.

On one long wall at Richard Telles Fine Art hangs a 2-by-13-foot sheet of Mylar, to which Bishton has glued tiny cutout images of fruits and vegetables. Neatly arranged in attractive rectangles that highlight the shapes, colors and textures of the photographed foods, Bishton's fastidious collage is as rigorously composed as any highly disciplined painting.

In contrast, her linear works on paper seem to be randomly arranged, sometimes stacking up into columns or rows, and at other times spreading out in the manner of unraveling fabrics.

To spend a little time with Bishton's works in each media is to notice that both involve types of mark-making in which substantial expanses of time are compressed into fairly small areas.

The paintings on paper record the accumulative process of their making, one tiny glyph after another. The collage of carefully cut photographs document days, weeks and months of vegetarian sustenance.

Both bodies of work are greater than the sum of their parts. In each, Bishton focuses on seemingly minuscule differences that gradually add up to impressive results.

* Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., (213) 965-5578, through Oct. 4. Closed Sunday and Monday.

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