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Art Review

June 05, 1998|DAVID PAGEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Frameworks: Liz Craft's second solo show at Richard Telles Fine Art adds a substantial and fascinating work to the odd genre of landscape sculpture.

Until very recently, whether individual sculptures stood indoors or out, they marked important locations or places for quiet meditation. But with the work of Jacci Den Hartog, Liza Lou, Jennifer Pastor and Michael Pierzynski, a new generation of L.A.-based artists has begun to make sculptures that stand in for the landscape, displacing its vistas and panoramas with scenic views of their own.

Craft's elaborately fabricated landscape sculpture builds on this growing movement. Titled "Living Edge," her fanciful conflation of a handcrafted stage-set and a backyard garden plays fast and loose with tradition, by getting viewers to look at a sculpture as if it were a painting--and vice versa.

To walk into the gallery is to be immediately pulled to your left--under the plastic and wire limbs of a smaller-than-lifesize tree, past a half-dozen fences that are higher than they're wide, alongside a papier-ma^che cave covered with synthetic moss and beyond a rickety stairway that segues into a freeway ramp made of painted wood.

Once you reach the open space at the back of the gallery, there's enough room to take in the sculpture as a whole. Consummately composed, this topsy-turvy piece of theater takes your eyes on wild, serpentine rides that follow the contours of a giant, undulating snake, an asymmetrical pool, an old-fashioned kite, a lumpy hillside covered with rubber leaves and a pair of Nauman-esque reindeer, which have been transformed into a love-struck couple.

There's no back or front to Craft's deliriously circular structure. Modeled on a knot, its twists and turns defy logic as they draw you into a wonderfully artificial world.

But the best thing about her supremely fake sculpture is that it gets you to use various elements as frames through which to view other elements. The window-like hole that exposes the cave's shadowy interior is the most literal example of this phenomenon.

Tree trunks and branches, along with brick walls, antlers, overpass supports and a hanging bird cage also function as temporary frames. They highlight the picturesque quality of other components by focusing your attention on them. Taking shape in the slippery space between the world and your view of it, Craft's enchanting landscape sculpture pulls your leg--to get you to stand in two places simultaneously.

* Richard Telles Fine Art, 7380 Beverly Blvd., (213) 965-5578, through June 27. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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