YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Out & About / Ventura County | sights

Neighborhood Variety Show

Carnegie Art Museum's 'Classic Competition' focuses on local artists.


There comes a time each year when the Carnegie Art Museum, one of the few art spaces in the county usually focusing on exhibitions from outside the area, turns its sights to its extended neighborhood. The annual "Classic Competition," now in its seventh edition, affords a valuable overview of what the artistic community in these parts has to offer.

Variety is the essence of shows like this one, which reveals artists working in their respective corners, without much overlap of style. Still, viewers can draw comparisons and cross-references. There is some affinity between Fran Engel's "Old Friend," a pop-art-meets-photo- realist portrait of a tooth-marked end of a pencil, and Carol Simson's image from her "Patio Series," in which a mundane scene, in a literal backyard, is transformed into something vaguely profound.

Katherine Young's "Santa Rosa Cezanne" lives up to its title, with a landscape on the island of Santa Rosa, painted in a segmented style evoking Cezanne. A different landscape aesthetic charges Sita Fields' strangely affecting "The Fence," in which a rural landscape meets a roadside snapshot attitude. In it, a simple scene, intriguingly cast with light and shadow, turns mysterious. Julia Pinkham's "The Next" evokes surrealism of the organic kind, with objects in space, but a dream space.

The sculptural element includes conceptual twists, as with Beverly Decker's "Meditations," a book of visual ruminations on handmade paper with a companion piece full of wax. Upstairs, Gerri Johnson-McMillan's "Women" is an appealingly quixotic construction out of black, twining fabric, suggesting female attributes of nurturing warmth and self-containment.

The photography component is strong this year, the best work being also the subtlest, gently pushing outward at the medium's conventions. Fernando Vengeas' "Munich" is a powerful, if small, image, a depiction of bicycles in an alleyway whose real identity is as a well-ordered composition, with a harmonious convergence of lines and textures.

"Children at War No. 1" is William Hendricks' entry, a case of experimental imagery and varied degrees of focus. A purposeful ambiguity leaves the narrative interpretation of the scene open. By contrast, Steven Schaf's infrared image "Melville Hardware" projects a kind of weird, bracing clarity--to the point of dreaminess.

Upstairs, the most striking work comes from Sidney Rowe of Oregon, partly because of the unfamiliarity of his images in a show otherwise stocked with familiar faces. Rowe's paintings--not quite representational, not quite abstract--achieve a strange and personal evocation.

His compositions are flecked with glimpses of places and things half-recalled and images left unfinished, seeming to float in a space with both depth and flatness. Frenetically drawn squiggles lend further evidence of the artist's hand at work.

In other words, they set up paradoxes, parameters in imagery of uncertain realms. Are these visions of this world? The next? Or a nether world of the artist's devising and imagining? The latter, no doubt.



"A Classic Competition," through Sunday at Carnegie Art Museum, 424 South C St. in Oxnard. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs. and Sat., 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Fri., 1-5 p.m., Sun.; admission is $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, $1 6-16; 385-8157.

Josef Woodard, who writes about art and music, can be reached by e-mail at

Los Angeles Times Articles