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December 20, 2009

Reviews by Christopher Knight (C.K.) David Pagel (D.P.) and Leah Ollman (L.O.). Compiled by Grace Krilanovich.

Critics' Choices

Tom Wudl: Specimens from the Flowerbank World Some artists work with their ears to the ground, listening to the buzz to try to make their works relevant. Others pay no attention to external interruptions, concentrating instead on the voices in their heads. That's what Tom Wudl does. His paintings, drawings and prints describe a world so dense with detail that it's a treat to visit, a delight to contemplate and a joy to know. Every image is exquisite, so fantastically rendered and precisely crafted that many seem to have been made with the aid of a microscope. But none is precious or breathless. That's the magic of Wudl's art. He manages to make intense concentration and laser-sharp focus look relaxed -- not quite casual but serene and welcoming (D.P.). LA Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; ends Dec. 31. (310) 822-4955.

Jeff Koons: New Paintings Andy Warhol was fascinated by boredom for two perfectly good reasons: It allowed him to see things he otherwise would have missed and it meant that things were going pretty well -- that life's daily dramas were not too upsetting. Jeff Koons' new paintings flesh out both aspects of Warhol's love affair with boredom. They reveal his dedication to the production of handmade reproductions: super-realistic depictions of works that look as if they are mass-produced. They are the best copies money can buy. The crass aspirations of the nouveau riche are Koons' great subject. His art is the visual equivalent of a 19th-century novel of manners. If that's boring, it's exactly the type of boredom that fascinated Andy (D.P.). Gagosian Gallery, 456 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills. Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. ; ends Jan. 9. (310) 271-9400.


Susan Anderson: High Glitz Forget this season's slasher flicks. The scariest images in Hollywood right now are Anderson's photographs of pint-sized beauty contestants in their competitive finery. Artifice runs so high it verges on the grotesque -- fake fingernails, false eyelashes, white veneers on the teeth. Commercialized and sexualized all out of proportion to their age (from around 2 to 10), these children haven't just lost their innocence, they've packaged and sold it. Anderson, to her credit, manages to illustrate this sociological phenomenon without either celebrating or condemning it (L.O.). Paul Kopeikin Gallery, 8810 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; ends Thu. (310) 385-5894.

Lorser Feitelson: The Late Paintings In graphic design, the colloquial term for lines that come together and just barely (or don't quite) touch is "to kiss." Lorser Feitelson's sensuous abstract curves likewise possess an inescapably titillating charge. Some paintings (although none in this show) harness distinctive color juxtapositions such as red and green or orange and blue to create an optical spark. Two small works -- many of the rest are 5 feet square -- from 1976 even fuse shapes that are phallic and vulval. But the sparks set off in Feitelson's abstractions are also reminiscent of more generalized ideas of creation, like the one implied between the nearly touching fingers of God and Adam in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel (C.K.). Louis Stern Fine Arts, 9002 Melrose Ave., L.A. Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; ends Thu. (310) 276-0147.

Nataif $Capital { return "Š" } else { return "š" }a Prosenc: Mud Prosenc's short video "Mud" has the absorbing character of a parable, an origin story. It traces an individual's transformation but also reads as a metaphor for the passage from nature to culture. In the 10-minute piece, a female figure emerges from a bubbling gray pool of primordial ooze, eventually to wash free of the mud and walk -- clothed and civilized -- down a rural road. The Slovenian-born, L.A.-based Prosenc's show, consisting of the video and a group of still photographs, is small but it resonates poignantly (L.O.). Ruth Bachofner Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; ends Jan. 2. (310) 829-3300.

Marcia Roberts Paintings by Roberts have long been seductive perceptual snares -- stealthy, subtle things, fields of shifting atmosphere and luminosity. Her new work is not her nuanced best. On each canvas, Roberts stages a play of planes, painting slim panels to appear as if floating perpendicular to the nebulous space of the picture plane. The work is stiff and heavy-handed, the illusionism convincing but inconsequential. Roberts disappoints with this new work, which is uncharacteristically illustrational rather than ephemeral, all mechanics and no mystery (L.O.). Rosamund Felsen Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; ends Dec. 30. (310) 828-8488.

Group Show: Installations Inside/Out To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Armory has invited 20 artists it has worked with in the past to create site-specific art and installations for a new exhibition. Some works are temporal or located elsewhere in Pasadena. Most are in the gallery -- a show that's mixed. The two knockouts are Pae White's gorgeous pair of enormous woven tapestries, facing off against each other across the main room. One creates the illusion of a vast, light-reflective piece of crumpled Mylar, the other a limpid swirl of drifting cigarette fumes. Together they form a marvelous bit of "smoke and mirrors." Other compelling works, by Deborah Aschheim, Michael C. McMillen, Ed Ruscha and Mario Ybarra Jr., are also on view (C.K.). Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. Tue.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.; ends Dec. 31. (626) 792-5101.

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