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AROUND THE GALLERIES

There's no glamour, just deep themes

July 04, 2008|David Pagel | Special to The Times

Still others leave plenty of the plain white paper visible. "Two Way Collage" creates a whimsical arrangement of antique furniture and exotic animals. "Pouff" transforms images clipped from the Sunday comics into an outlandish creepy-crawler with meteorites for eyes, a military tank, roller coaster and T. rex as its midsection, and three fish, each with the head of a beautiful woman, as spiritual guides.

This exhibition is Conner's fifth solo show and only her second in a commercial gallery. Her first three took place in a San Francisco bookstore, a university medical center and a public library. No matter where her deliciously idiosyncratic images are shown, they hold their own and attest to the pleasures of looking at the smallest details while pondering the big picture.

Michael Kohn Gallery, 8071 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 658-8088, through July 19. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www. kohngallery.com

Experiments move over to art

Pat O'Neill is an internationally renowned experimental filmmaker who, over the last few years, has been projecting his densely layered films in darkened galleries alongside, on top of and through a variety of found and handcrafted objects. His latest installation, at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery, is his most successful. Neither resolved nor polished, it's terrifically stimulating in its uneven, hit-and-miss experimentation.

O'Neill's untitled exhibition appears to be the offspring of a backwoods cabin and a laboratory where surveillance tapes are analyzed. The combination of beautifully carved, sanded and finished walnut, oak, pine, acacia, basswood and sycamore burl with beautifully shot, edited and scored DVD projections jars a visitor's expectations and suggests a pretty sophisticated sort of folk futurism. It's high-tech primitivism.

As a filmmaker, O'Neill never believed in technology for its own sake. He always used whatever gizmos he could -- often adapting them to do things never imagined by their manufacturers -- to capture life's cyclical rhythms: day into night, winter to spring, ripening to decay, death to regeneration. For O'Neill, recycling is not simply something you do with cans and bottles. It's the very pulse of the cosmos.

As an installation artist, he still is finding his footing. Some pieces fall flat. Others fall short of transforming repetition into the mesmerizing flow of his films. But many work brilliantly, blending old-fashioned craftsmanship and digital wizardry to show that real inventiveness never goes out of style.

Intimacy is Nancy Jackson's forte. Each of her seven diorama-scaled sculptures and page-size drawings in another room at the gallery creates such a convincing little world of its own that it's easy to forget yourself in its presence -- not to mention where you're standing and everything else around you.

Jackson's meticulously rendered gouaches are all about contemplative solitude, of following one's own path and meandering through out-of-the-way places. "Crossroads," "Hard Rot" and "Bird Mountain" suggest that difficulty, luck and humility may lead to self-knowledge, but only if the self doesn't get in the way.

The two best pieces are the most elaborate. "Ka" is a wall sculpture that mimics the format of a ceremonial mask but also embraces the nestled complexity of multiple realities, its eyes and mouth opening onto worlds-within-worlds.

The only free-standing sculpture, "Oum," is more than 6 feet tall. But it is made of such fragile materials -- string, wire, clay and porcelain -- that it doesn't tower over viewers, but rather seems to be the model of a solar system inspired by dangling earrings and delicate chandeliers.

As a group, Jackson's low-tech, handcrafted works engage viewers -- and the world around them -- by making room for respite.

Rosamund Felsen Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, (310) 828-8488, through July 12. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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