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Valley Life | art review

Adding It Up

March 17, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Four artists are gathered at the Century Gallery in Sylmar this month under the provocative exhibition title "Sum of the Parts."

The name comes from a piece by sculptor Carol Ann Klimek, in which a series of rusty metal cubes are stacked unevenly against a wall. Some contain machine parts, gears and what look like body parts, a convergence of industrial, biological and creative energies.

A less-visible curatorial idea is also connected to the show's title, about the alchemy of the art-making process. It relies on the unstable merging of personal memory, collective unconscious and bursts of creative recognition to put the pieces together.

Curator John Cantley said the artists feed off "a thrill when all the parts suddenly coalesce into a 'ping' of recognition or awareness."

The vague notion relates to most art made without a clearly commercial objective, but the link is relevant to this work, which tends to play off the power of memory and conspicuously style-conscious leaps of faith.

In Klimek's case, it relates to the aura of oddity and contradictory messages in her ceramic busts on the gallery floor. These deconstructed, gouged-out heads could elicit a first impression of grotesquery, which is our reflexive, empathetic response, perhaps, to literally "defaced" humans.

But on another level, they refer to flowering and exploring inner states.

Ron Scolastico's "Inner Planes" mixed-media works deal with repeating, pattern-based compositions. Awash in visual rhythms, they send us ambivalent signals, wriggling between modes of pure abstraction and recognizable X-ray images.

Memory and melancholy hum beneath the paintings of Gail Lapins. She builds up narratives without explanation through layers of imagery and ambiguous sadness. Woven in are elements of games, from chess boards to tin soldiers and cards, suggesting the fickle hand of fate at work behind apparent sagas of glum nostalgia. The palette is dark and murky, like the outlook.

In another corner of the gallery, the work of Nicholas Fedak II is more restrained and subtler than the other works in the show. Yet it exerts a strange power, perhaps in inverse proportion to the density of the artistic material itself.

Fedak shows a series of positive transparencies of fractured, antique photographs that give the notion of documented memory revisited. There's also an element of revisionist history and psychological tinkering because he uses "found" images and presents them in cascading visual echoes.

It suggests a fragile state of being, like a broken film projector, before the celluloid starts burning and our suspended disbelief is undone.

BE THERE

"Sum of the Parts" at the Century Gallery, 13000 Sayre St., Sylmar. Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, noon-4 p.m. (818) 362-3220.

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