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ART: Ventura County | SIGHTS

Muted Meditations

Show at Moorpark College piques interest with the power of subtlety.


In the sizable demographic of artists in Ventura County, Sylvia J.K. Simmons has always stood apart. When her work shows up in group exhibitions in the area, her pieces seem infused with a special grace and invention. Now, she shows her work in a bustling, unlikely corner--in the entryway of the Moorpark College Administration Building.

It's one of those unusual venues that is worth seeking out. But blink, and you may miss it. Ironically, Simmons' works command interest by being noncommanding.

They are muted and dark impressions that blend elements of drawing, text and a refined sense of creating textures with layers of colors. There are objects and scenarios recognizably of this world, but reaching toward another one.

Essentially meditative in nature, these mixed-media works offer up mixed intentions and references. Recurring motifs, though used in different ways, connect the works. A bowl appears again in the large, mysterious piece, "Earth Bowl," amid a tapestry-like pattern of color dabs and gestures, with fragments of text again showing up like visual murmuring.

The pattern-based structure of "Subtle Wealth" is a series of rounded shapes, bowls and swirls, in which a sense of energy and design intertwine.

The circular flourishes in "Notes From East" resemble ripples in a pond, mixed with actual butterfly wings and vertical strips of language. The sum effect is a spiritual reflection on both the divide and the overlap of culture and nature.

In "Map," a large diptych on one wall, the rich, dark-toned surface is inflected with scratched lines, language bits, and an overall sumptuousness of visual effect. It could serve as an abstract map of the artist's present concerns, as she continues to explore an intriguing and personalized style.

* Sylvia J.K. Simmons, through Oct. 17 at Moorpark College Administration Building. Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday; (805) 378-1400.


Found Dreams: Mexican-born artist Rafael Perea de la Cabada has lived in Santa Barbara since 1987, and for many years has periodically shown his work at the Contemporary Arts Forum and elsewhere in town. Meanwhile, his reputation has expanded into the international arena, and his current show at the Manne Gallery in downtown Santa Barbara runs concurrently with shows in Croatia and Germany.

What we find in his hometown show is work of subtlety and raw mystique, art that draws us in through discreet means rather than overstated, overblown tactics.

For these paintings and works on paper and wood, in a series titled "For those who can see" and "Endangered Spaces," Perea draws on found objects, abstraction and, in some degree, the surrealism of Miro. These are deceptively calm, nonsensational pieces, but a personal and committed method belies the casual surface.

Epic in scale but somehow intimate in its poetic suggestion, "The short way is the longest way to the same place" is a floor-to-ceiling work as enigmatic as it is dramatic.

A fractured image of a ladder--symbol of progress and transcendence--climbs the wall, in a syncopated fashion, on a series of crudely stacked horizontal bands.

Spotty gray and black markings suggest the effects of decay.

Perea's work here conjures a variety of interpretations, celebrating antiquity, the purity of visual stimulus and the search for clarity amid the lurking chaos of life. He seems to view his art, healthily, as work in progress.

* Rafael Perea de la Cabada, "Endangered Spaces," through Oct. 25 at Manne Gallery, 1129 State St., Santa Barbara. Hours: noon-6, Wednesday-Sunday; (805) 564-5022.

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