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VENTURA COUNTY CULTURE

Drawings That Are More Than Painting Precursors

June 27, 2002|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bucking trends came naturally for the late Joyce Treiman, an artist who spent much of her life in Los Angeles and whose show of drawings and prints has landed with a generous splash in the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard.

Through the '60s until her death from cancer in 1991, she defiantly honed her work in a figurative mode while those around her were flirting with assorted ideas about abstraction and conceptualism.

She also put earnest effort into her drawing, viewing it as much more than just a preliminary warmup to the act of painting. Wandering through this subtle and wonder-filled traveling exhibition, which fills the Carnegie's gallery spaces and is headed for other venues, one becomes a believer. What's on view is Treiman's insightful skill and also a boon to the world of drawing well-done.

Treiman wasn't self-conscious about putting herself squarely in the middle of her art, sometimes with a whimsical tilt toward art history, as with the pencil-on-paper "Study for Turner and Me," a seaside two-shot of herself and the famed 19th century British seascape painter J.M. Turner.

One room in the museum is given over to a portfolio of lithographs called "Mirrored Couple." We follow a couple recognizable as the artist and her husband through a series of views and increasingly abstract inventions. It plays like an essay on the dualities and vicissitudes of couple-hood.

Amid several self-portraits are small portraits of artists of historical import she admired and also those she knew, including Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins and respected film editor Walter Murch.

The most powerful image in the show is "Incident 1," sparked partly by its sense of both ambiguity and alarm. A woman--another of Treiman's self-portraits--stands in her pajamas, howling through cupped hands, standing in splattered blood that mirrors the color of her hair. A corpse on a stretcher passes behind her; two suspicious characters hover before her. That this piece was created around the same time Treiman learned she had lung cancer adds personal poignancy.

Head upstairs, though, and note how the artist channeled her sense of physical frailty and mortality through filters of humor and mythos. Her "joker" drawings are lean, with sparse bursts of imagery among mysterious cushions of white space. This spacious scheme gives emphasis to her drawings of jokers, monks, wrestlers and other figures, which appear as pranksters imbued with mystical power, like not-so-grim reapers.

In her last several years, she used art to come to grips with the inevitable, with integrity and her wit intact.

* "Joyce Treiman: Drawings and Prints," Carnegie Art Museum, 424 South C St., Oxnard, through July 21. Gallery hours: Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, 1-5 p.m. (805) 385-8157.

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Bard's Landing: The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company kicks off its annual Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival Friday at Cal Lutheran University with "The Tempest."

The agenda continues with a production of "Much Ado About Nothing," beginning July 11.

* Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival, Kingsmen Park, Cal Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks. "The Tempest," Friday-Sunday, July 5-7 and 19-21. All performances, 8 p.m. Festival seating: general admission, $5; 18 years and younger, free. Reserved seating, $10. Lawn boxes, $35 and $50. (805) 493-3455. www.kingsmenshake speare.org.

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