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The Other Side of Art

The V2 Gallery's new show celebrates the area's growing alternative movement.


Ventura's art scene is strong and self-determined enough to support more than one alternative art show.

The exhibitions at Art City II already offer a window on certain fringe aspects of the artistic fiber of the region. This month, the V2 Gallery in Casitas Springs takes up residence at Art City II. It's a natural fit, a meeting of complementary aesthetics.

A few of the artists represented here, including Dan Sterling, freely cross over between media. Sterling shows both computer-generated abstractions, presumably geared toward depiction of the cosmic origins of life, and, on earthier turf, a smooth, sinuous sculpture like "Together and Apart," portraying entwined figures.

Don Ulrich's work might be called primitive to futuristic. His work ranges from pleasing ritualistic works in color to warmly gritty black-and-white pieces to gangly relief sculptures such as "Nebulae Venturi." In these, broken limbs are vividly painted and assembled into matrices with shards of mirror and ceramics attached, suggesting ceremonial objects at the juncture of culture and nature.

Compared to the effusive, cosmically-inclined artistic statements of some, Richard Schaefer keeps his statement short and sweet, if cryptic: "A painting is just a matter of contrast: this & that."

Fittingly, his intriguing paintings are spare abstractions with a muted palette of grays and sometimes sienna, occasionally gathered into triptychs or more. Hints of language or symbolic markings may enter the picture, as with the vertical triptych "Emerging Symbol," in which the climactic panel presents a clearly stated symbol set against a sienna wash.

"Nature is not sad" consists of five panels, black, white and shades in between, which loosely convey textures found in nature--rippling, hairy, foggy. Something about the inherent strength of nature, juxtaposed against the frailty of the human psyche, arises out of the piece.

A casual gatherer of artifacts and data, William McDaniel shows assemblage and collage work, which manages to be at once personal and irrational.

Comic relief comes from Dan Layman, whose sculptural creatures are concocted from salvage. In Layman's hands, rusty auto parts and other societal castoffs gain new life for art's sake. "Dumbo the Flying Muffler," the sea serpent "Hydra" and the dragonfly "Odanata"--fashioned from a jumbo-sized monkey wrench--might seem to be giddy playthings, but Layman is onto something more serious with his work. It has to do with the convergence of natural and post-industrial elements, in a mythical context.

Charles Fulmer is another veteran local artist whose muse takes him all over the map and back. His paintings--in this show, anyway--are rough affairs, bursting with a sometimes cartoonish exuberance. In "Wham," the apparent impact of one explosive canvas impacts another smaller canvas, displayed to the side of it. "Artist and Model" is a colorful, cubist-surrealist mashing together of forms, its figures seemingly caught in an ambiguous liaison.

It's another story with his sculpture, which, in a piece like "Bird Man,' involves big hunks of unfinished stone. "Element Man" combines gnarled, varnished wood and a craggy stone head.

At the core of V2 is its director, artist Wyndra Roche. Her paintings buzz with loud colors and references to landscape and figures in the process of melting or otherwise transforming. The transformation is the key. The best of these is "Fig & Pomegranate," a convergence of color and form in which existential vulnerability mixes it up with candy-colored ebullience.


"V2 Gallery at Art City II," through May 6 at Art City II, 31 Peking St., Ventura. Gallery hours: Wed.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.; 648-1690.


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

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