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AROUND THE GALLERIES

Rattle and hum: Stephen Vitiello's 'duets'

August 22, 2008|Leah Ollman | Special to The Times

A series of video pieces of dancers is more sophisticated -- technically -- but also more tedious. Shown in a row of digital picture frames, the works each extrapolate from a central image of a dancer, breaking down and recombining her movements in a collage of spinning and twirling planes against a nebulous background of color, light and floating letters. The artists, both based in L.A. and rich in cumulative experience in video, sound, music and performance, clearly had fun at the editing table, but little of their enthusiasm trickles down into the experience of this work.

Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, 8568 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 815-1100, through Aug. 30. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.cardwelljimmerson.com.

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Reaping what they sew

"The Horror of Tradition" makes for a provocative exhibition title, and a focus on needlework further preloads this show at Andrew Shire with substantive issues relating to gender, handwork and tradition. But the show only sporadically lives up to its name and theme. Each of the five artists has adopted stitchery of one sort or another as a subversive tool, a pathway to social critique or humor.

Sophia Allison's wrestler masks suck a little macho heroism out of the lucha libre mystique and replace it with everyday feminine concerns about hygiene and safety. As if draping a doily over a fist, Allison sews her masks and capes out of sanitary pads, pantyhose, bra hooks and Band-Aids.

Two small needlepoint portraits of female characters from horror films aren't enough to give much of a feel for Starlie Geikie's work, nor is Evelyn Serrano's shirt, embroidered after being acquired in trade from a homeless man, given enough context for the social significance of her performance/action to emerge.

Liz Young's coat sewn from stuffed animal pelts is a hoot, especially with its errant ear flaps and plastic eyes. Her stitchery of such farm pests as locusts and rats onto the covers of old farming magazines is visual kin to Ghada Amer's sexually explicit work, only less charged.

Finally, Robert Fontenot plays off the sampler style of stitchery (a la Elaine Reichek) in a series of panels with modern decorative needlework (mis)matched to discomfiting words, such as "perfidy," "rot" and "schadenfreude." His decomposing American flag, embellished with floral appliques and designated "beautified" as opposed to beautiful, provides the show's most poignant, reflective moment.

Andrew Shire Gallery, 3850 Wilshire Blvd., No. 107, Los Angeles, (213) 389-2601, through Sept. 6. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.andrewshire gallery.com.

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A sprawling, satisfying show

Summer group shows don't have to be like so-called summer reading -- purposely light, unworthy of the serious attention expected during the rest of the year -- but all too many of them are. "Looky See," at Otis' Ben Maltz Gallery, is a refreshing exception. Smart and consistently interesting, it offers plenty of spirited pleasures without ever insulting the visitor's intelligence.

Meg Linton, director of the gallery, organized the show with curatorial intern Nina Laurinolli. They came up with a roster of 28 artists from L.A. and beyond, some with deep local exposure and others with very little, who "draw, cut, film, pin, perforate, perform and journal." Material engagement is largely what unifies the group, which settles thoughtfully into clusters around notions of exuberant energy (Ann Diener, Penelope Gottlieb, Aaron Noble, Erin Marie Dunn, Emily de Araujo, Mindy Shapero), performative gesture (Barbara Berk, Takehito Koganezawa), diaristic notation (Fred Stonehouse, Tucker Neel) and the vulnerabilities of the social/political/religious status quo (Sandow Birk, Joe Biel, Eric Beltz, Richard Keely and Anna O'Cain).

Iva Gueorguieva's "Sprawl" installation is a standout. Layered, raw-edged drawings on paper and canvas spread across a wall, draping small speakers and ending near the floor beside two structures built of wood scrap. Grace and beauty jostle urbanity and contingency to compelling effect. Elizabeth Turk's long vertical scroll drawing of twisting vines is another gem. It unfurls like Rapunzel's tresses from a window near the gallery ceiling, a gorgeous study in persistence.

The luxurious, inexhaustible line also animates Ron Santos' ink drawings, which suggest webs, nets and spontaneous organic complexes. The biological and the botanical thread through the show -- analogues of the determination and generative energy that produced this exciting array of work. Also included are Roy Dowell, Erica Eyres, Claudia Nieto, Chris Oatey, Ruby Osorio, Ebony Patterson, Fran Siegel, Coleen Sterritt, Randal Thurston and Xawery Wolski.

Otis College of Art and Design, 9045 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 665-6905, through Sept. 13. Closed Sundays and Mondays and Aug. 30-Sept. 1. www.otis.edu/benmaltzgallery.

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