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Questioning Authority

Ojai-based artist brings spirit of skepticism to an exhibit of her mixed-media pieces.

October 13, 2000|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tucked among the assorted decorative items and comforts of home that fill Utopia Design in Studio City, the potentially edgy, probing mixed media pieces of Albert Fins bask in a deceptive calm. They look at ease, like harmless semi-abstractions that might go well with the couch or hang unobtrusively in a stairwell.

But in another context, say an art gallery with the unsparing forum of white walls to accent its darker side, Fins' art is less about comforting the eye than questioning the mind. At Utopia, we get hints of the angst, but the Ojai-based artist's general effect in this showing is to soothe.

Process is key to her art, which bears fleeting relationships to the real world and usually involves more than one material or medium, which she subjects to harsh processes, such as melting and tearing. The piece called "American Meltdown" carries a double meaning regarding social disruption and her interest in materials put through trial by fire.

Religious allusions have crept into her work over the years, but always in a spirit of skepticism. Although that aspect is minimal in this show, we find Biblical text reversed and rendered inexplicable in "White Out," the only recognizable visual clues being crucifixes.

Just as her frame-of-reference is never easily readable, ambiguous images come in and out of focus, literally and conceptually, as in the hazy glimpse of a woman in "Snow Sleeper."

She may as well be referring to her own aesthetic in "My Beautiful Wickedness." The material is melted fabric on paper, bunched up so that it becomes rumpled and wavy, its burnt surfaces suggesting past calamity, and obscured hints of newspaper photos blown up so they look like a matrix of pointillist dots.

In one of the tricks of Fins' art, reality is courted and then foiled again. Beneath their invitingly milky, murky surfaces, her pieces question authority, including the presumed authority of art itself.

In sharp contrast, her gallery mate, Rachel Winn Yon, concocts whimsical, ceramic vignettes and floral imagery gone giddy. Her ceramic tableaux are playful, childlike scenes from scampering animals to a vision of Adam and Eve that makes them look like your frumpy neighbors down the street.

Her relief pieces give the floral art tradition a personal twist, whether depicting hydrangeas or illusionistic watercolors built up, collage-like, from separate fragments of paintings. She's after creating a fantasy aesthetic all her own.

BE THERE

"Two Ladies," Rachel Winn Yon and Albert Fins, through October at Utopia Design, 12212 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 755-9030.

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