Some may joke that "Valley" and "culture" are mutually exclusive. But artistic vitality can be found tucked in the crannies as little explosions of creativity and gallery energy pop up in the 'burbs.
For this reason and others, 1999 was the year of the Orlando Gallery, that stalwart space on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Run by Bob Gino and Don Grant, it will be moving in 2000 to a new location elsewhere in the Valley, possibly in Woodland Hills.
"We're trying to get out in that direction, if we can," Gino said. "We're hoping to be in by February. We work fast when we work."
Whatever its address, the Orlando represents a die-hard commitment to the local art scene. One of the last hurrahs in Sherman Oaks was this fall's subtle, dazzling "Selections from the Recovered Drawings of Jean-Claude Mur Dubois," a gathering of work by a fictitious artist created by Don Lagerberg.
This was the year a new gallery popped up in an unassuming strip mall in Northridge. The VIVA Gallery is a diverse and generally easygoing space with the fanciful name Valley Institute of Visual Arts. Featuring local artists, it kicks off the new year and celebrates its first anniversary with an exhibition by California Russian artists, titled "Diversity 2000."
The Lankershim Arts Center, home to the Los Angeles Printmaking Society, is a commendable, if sparsely scheduled, art space in the still-fledgling NoHo Arts District.
The Bernard Milken Jewish Community Center in West Hills has a more regular turnover of exhibitions in its upstairs Finegood Gallery. "Obscurity to Freedom," "Medium at Large" and a show dedicated to Yitzhak Rabin were among the most memorable.
One of the most provocative galleries in the area sits quietly on the fringe with a bird's-eye view of the Valley. The Century Gallery, run by director John Cantley in conjunction with Mission College, is high on a hill in Sylmar. The effort to get there is often justified by the aesthetic goods. Cantley's curatorial handiwork is involved in its theme-driven, multiple artist shows. In 1999, they included "Surfaces: Real or Implied," "The Power of Symbols," and the recent multimedia "Emotion and Light."
Speaking of galleries in the hills, local art lovers tend to keep an eye out for what's going on at Glendale's Brand Library, which routinely presents some of the finest art to be found this side of the Hollywood Hills. Works by Donald Forkner and Susan Sandler, as well as Terry Lenihan's disarming sculptural installation "Forty Ladies," were among the Brand's many pleasures in 1999 at the spacious Skylight and Atrium galleries.
The Brand Library will present a show by artists Kristan Marvell and Nicolette Kominos later in January, and work by the National Watercolor Society, neon sculptor Richard Ankrom, and the L.A. Printmaking Society in June.
Another art space of note on the Valley's fringes is the Village Square Gallery on the quaint, meandering Honolulu Avenue in Montrose. Owner-artist Charles Borman broke with his tradition of presenting outside artists and showed his own witty, wooden sculptures. The Village Square kicks off the new year with a juried group show titled "The Millennium Exhibit."
Woodbury University's nicely equipped art gallery in Burbank has hosted numerous fine shows, but was dark much of the year.
It did, however, present an exhibit of intriguing paintings of Carol Bishop, "les jardins particulars" early in the year. All of which demonstrates that the Valley's art scene is evolving slowly as the year turns. This is more than just a seamy playground of human folly, as featured in P.T. Anderson movies "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia." There is art in these here hills and flatlands.