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VENTURA COUNTY CULTURE

Assembling a Fun-Loving Show at Ojai's Childress Gallery

September 19, 2002|JOSEF WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The fine, although necessarily coarse, art of assembling artworks from "found" objects is on display at the Childress Gallery through this month.

The exhibition title has a French accent, going by the established art-world term "Assemblage," and there are moments of seriousness along the way. Primarily, though, the going is easy, with funk and fluff presiding. Lighthearted humor and rough edges abound.

Jan Sanchez, also the show's curator, mixes her media with her wit and skill, as in her "A" chair, a metal seat cradling a neon "A." Function and language converge. Other artists veer off into private directions. Lucy Harvey strings broken bottlenecks together into a dangerous decorative object. Allison Lee mixes skeleton-like lovers and a heart in her metal sculpture. Michael Flechtner deftly blends skateboard parts, a metal frame and playful bear imagery in a mock-shrine.

Self-portraits by Sylvia Raz and Walt Rogge similarly cast the artists as mixed-media fiends who find themselves in objects they collect and connect, but the works follow different tacks. Rogge's work is a wooden structure tripling as empty head, art supply holder and dispenser of firecrackers, awaiting fire (like an artist awaiting the muse?).

Raz, a mainstay of the annual Ojai Studio Artist Tour (coming up Oct. 11 and 12), often creates figure-like constructions, with wooden limbs and knobby appendages attached to whimsical materials. Her work here continues that idea of artwork as persona container.

Outhouses aren't often pressed into the service of art, somewhat surprisingly. Duchamp, after all, famously decreed a urinal art, and therefore it was. A different agenda is at work with Ronda LaRue's radically redecorated "porta-potty" outside the gallery. Her piece is titled "A Contemplative Altar to Human Wastefulness."

On the whole, "Assemblage" seems to lack a core, or a unified statement. Then again, that very lack of cohesion may circle back to the central idea of "found object"-based work, rescued from the trash heap in the name of an art still being codified and defined.

* "Assemblage," G. Childress Gallery, 319 E. El Roblar Drive, Ojai. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. (805) 640-1387.

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Revisiting the Scene: Those grisly recurrent images and somber ruminations lorded over media sources as America, and Southern California, commemorated the first anniversary of the tragedy of Sept. 11. Ojai's modest but spirited theater company, Theater 150, had another idea, and it put on a timely encore performance of last fall's production, "Human Chain," in the Zalk Theater at Happy Valley School last Wednesday night.

This is the moving pastiche-like theater piece woven together by company directors Elizabeth C. Rosengren Brown and Dwier Brown from a mass of material--personal testimonies, articles, poems and other sources. The resulting piece is an affecting, layered composite of voices, like links in a chain, or patchwork in a quilt. Strength is garnered from the cumulative process and the communal fabric.

Five actors sat onstage and read through the script with lucidity and feeling sometimes spilling over into tearfulness, as when the image arose of war sounding a "pure, high note, like the anguish of a mother singing to an empty bed." The subjects ranged from haunting details of that day to philosophical asides, along with reflections on the human capacity for hatred and violence. Meanwhile, musicians J.B. White and Julie Christensen interspersed sparse, effective musical interludes, ending on the poignant note of Paul Simon's prayerful "American Tune."

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Indian Music Comes to Ojai: Since coming to the West in the '70s, acclaimed Indian violinist L. Subramanian has ventured in many musical directions, experimenting with Indo-jazz mergers and classical crossover projects. He has the curiosity and the natural virtuosity to excel in various musical terrains. However, when Subramanian appears in concert at the Zalk Theater of the Happy Valley Foundation Saturday, the musical focus will be on his indigenous tradition, South Indian "Carnatic" music. Joining him will be percussionist Mahesh Krishnamurthy, on the South Indian drum, the mridangam.

* L. Subramanian, Saturday, 5 p.m., Zalk Theater, Happy Valley School, 8585 California 150, Ojai. Reservations, $60. (805) 640-9800.

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