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Romancing Collectors With Restraint

Art Notes * The Los Angeles Art Show caters to traditional tastes with a modest array of 19th and early 20th century works.

September 10, 2000|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | Suzanne Muchnic is The Times' art writer

Los Angeles had a fling with a big, flashy contemporary art fair in the late 1980s and early '90s. Like many art world enterprises born in the go-go '80s, the affair didn't last. But now the city seems to be building solid relationships with two relatively modest fairs geared to more traditional tastes.

Photo L.A., an annual exhibition and sale of photography organized by Los Angeles dealer Stephen Cohen, will celebrate its 10th birthday on Jan. 18-21 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Cohen expects it to be his largest fair to date, with an international slate of 70 vendors.

Younger and smaller but also flourishing, the Los Angeles Art Show, presented by the Fine Art Dealers Assn., will make its sixth annual appearance Friday through next Sunday at UCLA's John Wooden Center. Billed as "the finest traditional art fair on the West Coast" and the "largest vetted show of its kind in Southern California," this exhibition and sale features mainly 19th and early 20th century paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. This year, 46 dealers from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, N.M., New York and Boston will set up booths offering works by American and European artists.

California plein-air painters, Taos Society artists and Hudson River School painters will be represented, along with various forms of Western Americana. Among European pieces to be exhibited are Barbizon paintings and works by affiliates of the Paris Salon and London's Royal Academy. Works by Modernists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, Arthur Dove and Man Ray, and a few contemporary artists will also be on view.

"From all the vibes I'm getting, I think it's going to be a great show this year," said Howard L. Rehs, a New York dealer in 19th century European art who has served as president of the Fine Art Dealers Assn. for the last three years.

The association was founded in 1990 by a group of about 10 dealers, Rehs said. The original members were predominantly Californians who specialize in American realism. But the group--which now has 30 members--has broadened its geographic reach and artistic scope over the years while continuing to focus on traditional art, he said.

The association's first three shows were members-only affairs, staged at the Pasadena Civic Center. In 1998, when the fair moved to UCLA, additional dealers were invited to participate. As the number of vendors has grown from 16 to 46, attendance has increased from 800 to 5,000, according to fair organizer Kim Martindale.

Participation in the Los Angeles Art Show is a requirement of membership in the association, so all 30 members will have booths at the Wooden Center this year. In addition, 16 other dealers have been invited to show and sell their wares. Los Angeles-based participants include William Karges, Jack Rutberg, George Stern and Louis Stern.

The goal of the Fine Art Dealers Assn. is to make the fair one of the premier shows in the country by gradually improving the quality of the artworks on view and building the audience, Martindale said. But the group is talking about making a big leap next year, possibly taking over Pauley Pavilion as well as the Wooden Center and "rounding out the history of art" by offering much more Modern and Contemporary work, he said.

This year's event will be launched Thursday, from 6 to 10 p.m., with a $100-ticket reception to benefit the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County. To purchase tickets to the reception, call (213) 202-6280.

Public hours of the show are Friday, noon-7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; next Sunday, noon-5 p.m. The $10 admission fee includes an illustrated catalog.

CHANGE FOR CHANGE INC.--A fund-raiser for artist Robert Rauschenberg's nonprofit foundation, Change Inc.--which provides emergency aid for artists--will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. The $25-per-ticket affair will be staged in the tented parking lot of Gemini G.E.L., a gallery and fine art publisher at 8365 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood.

Dubbed "A Night in Morocco," the event will offer food, drink and an exhibition and sale of 10 prints made by Rauschenberg and his partner, Darryl Pottorf, on their travels in Marrakech. All proceeds will benefit the 30-year-old foundation, which provides grants of up to $1,000 to cover rent, medical expenses, utility bills, fire damage costs and other situations recognized by the foundation's board of directors as constituting an emergency for a professional artist.

Since its inception, Change Inc. has given onetime grants to more than 1,500 "qualified, stressed, financially abused artists," Rauschenberg said in a statement released by the foundation. "Unfortunately, it remains the only organization of its kind. Change Inc. labors expediently with compassion and efficiency and with zero overhead. Every contributed cent goes directly to the artists."

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