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Celebrating the Vital Spirit of Ventura's Late Art City

The Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo will offer a tribute to the former gallery and enclave.


Art City: Even the name seems like something out of a dream, some ironic utopian vision of a community in which art and the muse rule. It could trigger flashbacks to the '60s counterculture or the wide-eyed idealism of Bauhaus.

But Art City was a reality, if a humble and funky entity, for many years in Ventura. A vital gallery and studio enclave on the fringe between Ventura and the Ventura River, Art City ended in January, due to a shift in property usage. Its role in the fabric of local culture has been missed already.

If only briefly, Art City rises again at the Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo, another space existing proudly on the fringes of the commercial area. "A Tribute to Art City" brings artwork normally found in the rustically inviting Art City gallery, but here seen in the tidy, carpeted confines of SCIAC's main gallery. It's almost disorienting, without creaking floorboards and rafters overhead.

You know you've arrived by the odd sentry near the front door of the Art Center.

Welcome to Eric Richards' life-size bronze replica of a vintage motorcycle policeman, part of a memorial to the St. Francis dam disaster in the late '20s, which wreaked destruction in Santa Paula and cast a dark shadow over Mulholland's name. But that's another story.

Art City founder and general gatekeeper Paul Lindhard is seen in a fond, aptly scraggly portrait by Paul Benavidez, capturing the restless creative energy of the subject in a flourish of Philip Pearlstein-like observation. Then, on the gallery floor, is a recent sculpture by Lindhard, a mutant geological and anatomical piece winkingly titled "Widemouth."

A different sort of melded imagery is seen in Alexandra Morosco's "Nursing the Raven," in which a nude, oozing out of stone, coddles a raven. Dan Lyman's insect sculptures, fashioned from rusty auto parts, crawl about the windows, and Benavidez's own concertedly messy, trash-bedecked assemblage piece, "The Place That Is Jenin," asserts its timely message.

In two-dimensional art, M.B. Hanrahan's large, slightly woozy "Still Life" uses cartoonish imagery to put forth an essay on death and Disney. Peter Eble's mixed-media "Rorschach Series" is psycho-decorative, and Marilyn Noad's "Leaving Tinseltown" is a dark, stormy and roughhewn landscape, leaving us to speculate on the artist's flight from SoCal superficiality. Alberta Fins' "Wounded by the 'Rite' " is one of her typically sweet-and-sour works, stirring up creative energy, visceral techniques and a sense of questioning.

Art continues in the back of Georgia O'Keeffe Gallery, with an especially effective gathering of four painters whose work is mostly abstract and mostly neo-expressionistic.

Joining Fins, Eble and Noad is Richard Schaeffer, who has an ability to create landscapes with a secret life as abstraction.

* "A Tribute to Art City," Studio Channel Islands Art Center at CSU Channel Islands, Camarillo. Ends July 6. Thursdays to Saturdays, noon to 3 p.m. (805) 383-1368.


Artful Busing: Sculptor Dennis Oppenheim was commissioned to adorn the Ventura bus transfer center, and the official unveiling will be at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. For the occasion, local new music man Jeff Kaiser and Los Angeles-based avant-reedist Vinnie Golia will present a new commissioned musical work.

On Tuesday night, hear Oppenheim speak at the Laurel Theater, in conversation with Donna Granata, as part of her "Focus on the Masters" series.

* Opening of bus transfer center, north end of the Pacific View Mall, Mills and Telegraph roads, Ventura, Wednesday, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Musical program begins at 5:30 p.m. (805) 658-4768. Dennis Oppenheim, in conversation with Donna Granata, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Laurel Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura (805) 658-4768.


Dance Notes Local and Upward: Tonight's presentation of "The World of Dance" at the Pacific High School Performing Arts Center has its own built-in allure for regional dance aficionados. But there's a particular cause for local pride in that it also represents the farewell performance for gifted Venturan Jennifer Whalen. All of 17, Whalen was recently contracted as a member of the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, a junior arm of the celebrated American Ballet Theatre.

Whalen was a student of Linda Strangio-Hedberg, whose Poinsettia School of Ballet is one of several dance groups on the program.

* "The World of Dance," Pacifica High School Performing Arts Center, 600 E. Gonzales Road, Oxnard, 7 p.m. today. Advance: $8 general, $6 children 12 and younger, $5 senior citizens and students. At the door, $10. (805) 985-3639.


Library Sounds: The classical music season has generally come easing to a halt in Ventura County. Many are left to head south or north--to Santa Barbara's always intriguing Music Academy of the West season--for live musical sustenance.

But all is not lost. A monthly chamber music series has begun at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, every second Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.

This Saturday, the Moorpark Chamber Ensemble, drawn from players in the Moorpark Symphony Orchestra, will perform in the courtyard.

* Moorpark Chamber Ensemble, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, Saturday, 2 p.m. Free. (800) 410-8354.

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