The photographs by Naida Osline at Acuna-Hansen Gallery are small, elegantly composed and exceptionally creepy. They depict the human body, but as it might appear in nightmares.
In one image, the toes of a full-sized, greenish-colored foot protrude from a woman's mouth, creating a strangely fishlike profile. Another depicts two rows of teeth nestled between unidentifiable folds of hairy male flesh. Yet another presents a delicate white breast with a claw for a nipple.
All of the images are close-ups conveying a single, disfigured fragment of the body (no faces) positioned against a solid, neutral background. But for the refined lighting and dramatic use of shadow, they might resemble medical illustrations. Indeed, one gets the impression that Osline is cataloging something -- if not actual diseases, then perhaps a collective set of psychological ailments.
It's stirring work, intelligently conceived and seamlessly executed, prosthetics and all. While the majority are unnerving, the best are also oddly beautiful: an elbow embedded with what looks like a glowing green golf ball, for example, or a graceful pointed foot marred by a hook-shaped knob on the heel.
We place a great deal of day-to-day faith in the stability of "this too, too solid flesh." However, as anyone who's ever nursed a mosquito bite well knows, that flesh is hardly fixed but permeable, easily punctured, and prone to inflammation at even the slightest disturbance. In this work, Osline assumes a role much like that of the mosquito: prodding the boundary between the internal and the external and reminding us not to take the division for granted.
Acuna-Hansen Gallery, 427 Bernard St., Los Angeles, (323) 441-1624, through March 22. Closed Sunday-Tuesday.
in spray paint
Robert Russell's first exhibition at Frumkin/Duval Gallery, titled "Drive By," featured paintings of strangers randomly encountered on the street; his second, portraits of Echo Park gardeners. In this, his third, he continues in the same sociological vein with paintings of 10 male skateboarders.
The format of these works is consistent throughout. Each figure is depicted from the middle of the torso upward and viewed from just below eye level; each gazes directly at the viewer; all but one is shirtless. In a notable departure from previous, more traditional methods, each is rendered solely in black spray paint.
Russell's technique is impressive. Manipulating a seemingly random assortment of planes and hard edges (produced by spraying over hand-held shields), he manages to capture the physical presence of each figure in remarkable detail, revealing in each body a casual athleticism and latent sense of agility. Equally adept is his encapsulation of that notoriously irreverent skater attitude. To one who spent much of her early adolescence pining over just these sorts of boys, their appealing combination of good humor, pride, insolence and indifference struck a familiar chord.
Conceptually, Russell's choice of materials represents a commendable attempt to approach his subjects on their own terms, a gesture that resonates on several levels. The grittiness of the paint speaks of the street; the intuitive agility inherent in Russell's process parallels that required in skateboarding itself; and the ephemerality of the images -- which seem thin and almost ghostly from a distance -- echoes that which characterizes the presence of the skater in the urban environment.
Although a more traditional method might have made for richer and ultimately more satisfying paintings -- there are two such examples, oil studies on the same subject, hanging in a side gallery -- the spray paint makes these consummate portraits: true in spirit as well as likeness.
Frumkin/Duval Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-1850, through Saturday.
Much has been written about the effect of the automobile on architecture. Considerably less documented -- though more and more apparent -- is its influence on contemporary landscape art.
Dimitri Kozyrev, who grew up in Russia but got his master of fine arts degree in Santa Barbara (where he still resides), would be an ideal case study for such an examination. If the painters of the Hudson River School likely drew their inspiration from quiet country strolls, Kozyrev seems to find his on the freeway. In the eight graphite drawings that make up his current exhibition at Cirrus Gallery, the automobile is not a means of moving from one landscape to another but a primary structuring device -- the center from which landscape emanates.