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Valley Life | art review

Group Dynamics

Pearls dot wide-ranging VIVA Gallery exhibit.


The VIVA Gallery in Northridge is like an oasis, providing a venue for art in a San Fernando Valley strip mall. But because the cooperative gallery features a cycle of groups exhibiting their work, the shows sometimes lack consistency.

The current group show exemplifies the gallery's tendency to mix and match styles and levels of artistry willy-nilly. The second annual Southern California Open Regional Exhibition, comprising 110 pieces leaning toward pleasant, genial and generic work, would be much stronger if pared by at least half.

But enough good pieces are scattered throughout the gallery to warrant a look. The show's first-place award goes to John Selleck's "Studio With Yellow Table," a mixed-media piece that conveys the creative ambience of an artist's studio. Other works reflect that artistic energy, including Joe Agnew's "Moth," an abstract piece built from layers of paint.

The medium of assemblage represents some of the strongest work in the show. Thad Howard's "Anticipating Ascension" is a crucifix-shaped piece festooned with cutout images of romance from old, pulpy novels and voltage meters indicating levels of energy and heat. The ascension may be both a religious and romantic reference.

Another assemblage piece, Joel David's "Through the Looking Glass," features objects gathered in a grandfather clock case, reflecting time's illusion and history's passage, though with a twisted logic. Michael Hankin's "Who Carves the Stone?" brings together arcane and archaic objects with a neat, everything-in-its-place care.

Joselito Sumilang's "I Wish I Was Blank" is an odd metaphorical painting based in surrealism, in which a pregnant woman is seen amid balls of twine with single strands rising to the skies. Her head is wrapped in twine, an emblem of comfort and foreboding.

The most memorable piece in the show may be Cheryl Kline's painting "Ponte Vecchio," an oil painting fitted with a frame of copper pipe. Kline blends the abstract and the concrete with a silhouetted landscape and houses in the detail-blurring light of twilight. Some secret force is at work beneath the murky surfaces, as if peeking into the inner life of the suburbs. The effect is similar, in a way, to noted painter Roger Brown's work, in which mundane scenes, often in silhouette, become icons of another reality.

The painting is literally tucked in the back corner of the large gallery, but that's sometimes where you find the buried treasure in a sprawling group show.


Second annual Southern California Open Regional Exhibition, through Sept. 29 at VIVA Art Gallery, 8516 Reseda Blvd., Northridge. Hours: Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, noon-4 p.m. (818) 769-0748.

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