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ART | SIGHTS

Building on Form

Works render old and new views of urban architecture.

July 23, 1998|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

On paper--literally and figuratively--Ed Weiss' watercolor works report simple visual facts. His paintings, at the Orlando Gallery in Sherman Oaks, cleanly depict urban architecture in its ancient splendor and more contemporary glitz, without pretension or apparent ulterior motives.

But architectural imagery always tends to say more than the surface interpretations suggest, partly because architecture is our most public art form, a barometer of history and culture. As such, Weiss stirs up feelings and reflections.

Age is relative in these scenes. Images of the Art Deco Colony Hotel in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the venerable Rialto Theater in Pasadena, replete with ornate marquee, celebrate bygone aesthetics with a wistful admiration.

In a different but not completely dissimilar way, Weiss also shows the romantic patina of aging in a detailed rendering of an ancient Spanish or a Boston cathedral, self-consciously juxtaposed against a rectilinear 20th-century structure in the background. Such a convergence of old and new architecture defines our cities, especially in America.

For more specifically local color, we find the La Reina theater marquee, now defrocked from its original movie house identity and transformed into a Gap store. This view is visible by stepping outside the Orlando gallery and looking up Ventura Boulevard. Weiss' nocturnal scene is a reminder of the flux of development and fashion in the urban-scape.

With the piece called "Fluffy's," Weiss cooks up a contrapuntal maze of imagery, as seen in the reflections of a plate-glass window in a cafe. Another image steeped in urban romanticism is "Rainy Day New York," in which a street is embraced by the verticality of buildings, its asphalt gleaming and rain-slicked. A temporary calm has descended, as yellow taxis sit idly at a stoplight.

A general, deceptive calm is the operative mood in these paintings, as with most architectural art. Buildings sit still, waiting for humanity to generate a buzz within, and, sometimes, for artists to replicate and ponder their forms. Weiss does so with understated charm and abiding curiosity.

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MEDITATIVE DESIGNS: Also in the gallery this month, but a world away from Weiss' worldly work, are Roger Bowers' hypnotic pen-and-ink pieces, built from fastidious patterns and echoing designs. The artist burrows deeply into these designs, fashioned from hyper-detailed and precisely rendered lines and shapes.

Intricate in their handiwork, the images suggest the symmetry of mandalas, although put into square and, in one case, cruciform formats. Often, winding serpentine shapes stretch across elaborate tapestry-like backgrounds.

Or are they backgrounds? One gets a sense from these meditative works that the usual rules of Western artistic order don't necessarily apply; hierarchies are sidestepped. The goal is patiently wrought, nonrepresentational imagery, leaning to the Eastern philosophical end of the abstract-art spectrum. This art is a nice place to get lost for a minute.

BE THERE

Ed Weiss and Roger Bowers, through July 31 at Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

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