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Window Dressing

Sculpture of recycled parts turns storefront into eco-psychodrama.

May 23, 1999|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sculptor Paul Benavidez is no stranger to creative materials and settings. His work is often built from recycled parts and found objects, fashioned into pieces where used materials are granted new life.

The effect can be pleasantly alarming when flung into a public space, as happened a year ago when he turned a few downtown Ventura store windows into funky eco-pyschodramas.

There would have been another such public installation unveiled at the Ventura Art Walk a few weeks back, but the ambitiousness of the endeavor got the best of timing.

Now, however, it's up for public view through May, in all its bizarre splendor, at the Book Mall of Ventura, just a block off the main drag of Main Street. In fact, the slightly off-the-beaten-path quality of the address, on Oak Street, resonates with the offbeat nature of the work.

Titled "GAIA: Goddess of Earth," the window installation mixes elements in a gracefully gonzo tableau on the theme of a center coming undone.

Topically enough, the figurative aspect at the center is a surfboard decorated with facial features, anthropomorphized like an art-worldly Mr. Potato Head.

Sand on the ground continues the beach (or beached?) motif, but a hole appears to have been burned, as if by a laser, through a plastic floor, a perforated effect mirrored on the ceiling.

On a wall curving around the surfboard figure is a bank of old, defrocked computer motherboards pressed into a layer of plaster.

Overall, we get a sense from the work of nature being undermined by post-industrial, post-digital overkill, in itself an all-too banal theme, given the very real perils of a world gone cyber.

But Benavidez underscores the obvious with a certain audacious zing in the conjuring.

DETAILS

Paul Benavidez, "GAIA: Goddess of Earth," through May 30 at Book Mall of Ventura, 105 S. Oak St. in Ventura. On view every day until midnight.

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The annual "De Colores" group show at the Santa Paula Union Oil Museum arrived for Cinco de Mayo and continues through the month, just in time for the heart of spring.

Suitably, it's an exhibition full of vibrant colors and generally free-spirited, unpretentious approaches to composition. That said, though, each artist in the show has her or his own means and vocabularies for conveying artistic ideas.

A happy jumble of forms and colors inform Maria Velasco's "The Mathematician," as if depicting the inner life of a particular giddy, scatterbrained math head. Teresa Jaramillo shows lively, folkloric painted woodcuts, ranging from a portrait of the great Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to a sweet village scene, its contours tracing the outline of a thatched roof.

Christina Valdez goes three-dimensional with her joyful tableau, "La Fiesta."

Xavier Montes is, comparatively, the realist of the bunch, between his kindly close-up of a young child drawing in "Discovery" to the idyllic agrarian scene of "The Pastoral Stage." For Alvaro Suman, animals assume an allegorical power, as sources of strength and grace.

Michael Kelly shows works featured last fall at the Ojai History Museum, including "Two Celts Painted by a Celt" and "Spirit of Colima (Homage to Rufino Tamayo)," in tribute to one of his teachers.

The art-historical strain continues in the quasi-Cubist work of Art Hernandez's "Homenaje a Picasso" and the homage strain continues, in a cheekier way, in Virginia Ashby Valdez's "Homenaje a Chihuahua," an ode to a pooch.

Political commentary rears its head only gently here, in Charlie Dorado's "Trapped at the Border," a painting of a river, symbol of freedom and fear, with actual sticks and barbed wire attached to the canvas for added veracity.

In the main, though, it's a show in which harsher realities are relegated to the back of one's mind and one's culture, and the culturally aligned fiesta mentality is allowed to flourish.

DETAILS

"De Colores," through May at the Santa Paula Union Oil Museum, 1001 E. Main St., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun.; free, but donations are requested; 933-0076.

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