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Valley Life | art review

Through the Dark Lightly

May 05, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Usually, the Brand Library's Skylight Gallery proudly lives up to its name, and artists happily take advantage of its yawning floor and open, sky-lit atmosphere. It's a different story at the moment.

Richard Ankrom has willfully blocked out the windows and skylight. The once light-washed space has taken on a dark, industrial character.

The darkness is punctuated by abrupt flashes and buzzes, triggered by motion sensors as visitors pass through. With casually strewn gadgets suggesting cheesy sci-fi toys and SWAT technology, the mood is less about amusement than about anxiety.

Ankrom, an L.A.-based artist, deals with the urban uprising after the Rodney King verdict in his own, darkly comic way. "Atlas" is a large tangled mass of aluminum tubing and fiber optics, a sculptural dance from mundane industrial goods. "Empress" uses a large white fabric panel, which when viewed through a special screen seems to reveal the shroud of a vision--as of a Madonna sighting, courtesy of the power of microcircuitry.

Things glitter and brood in Ankrom's art, yet neither social cynicism nor sensual beauty prevails. It's a delicate balancing act, putting the "art" back in artillery with faux weapons such as "Particle Beam Rifle" and "Riot Taser."

He takes a jaundiced yet tender glance at love in "Wedding Cake." He uses neon in its vernacular setting, spelling out "No Vacancy" in a plastic box with freeze-framed roses. An ill-fated honeymoon or humble, slumming bliss?

Flowers are a recurring motif in the smaller relief pieces in the outer Atrium Gallery but are always deployed with a cool, knowing wit. The floral bouquet in "Misery" is blackened and withered, while flowers are encased in clear plastic axes in two pieces called, with twisted sentiment, "Gra'ma."

We are tipped off to an ironic attitude from the outset. Walking into the gallery, we first find a piece titled "Cornball," a flickering red heart adorned by blossoms. Smart-alecky or not, beauty is its own reward. Ankrom is flinging a lot of ideas about in this show, and through its thicket of contradictions, a kind of weird gracefulness emerges, banished skylight notwithstanding.

BE THERE

"Altar to Miss Velvet" through May 26 at the Brand Library Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale. Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 1-9 p.m.; Wednesday, 1-6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 1-5 p.m. (818) 548-2051.

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