Friday, March 5, 2010

1,000; and Some Art

Here's another milestone. Today, I get to write my 1,000th entry in The Buddha Diaries... Hard to believe!

We made a few gallery stops yesterday. I had been intending for a while to stop by the Taylor De Cordoba Gallery to see some new paintings by Kimberly Brooks. A word of disclosure here: Kimberly is a colleague on The Huffington Post, and has been a welcome reader and supporter of my writing. I don't suppose that anyone comes here to The Buddha Diaries looking for anything other than a very personal take on art and other things. As I have written elsewhere--notably in "Persist," "I Am Not an Art Critic." That is, I no longer need to abide by the conventional rules of criticism--like the one that says you can't write about your friends. I understand the reason for the rule. I just don't choose to be bound by it any more.

So let's take a look at Kimberly's work. She's a proficient painter, mostly pictures of people in environments that could be called "genre paintings," and she has been concentrating recently on portraiture in what she identifies as "The Stylist Project." They are portraits, mostly, of women, presumably themselves stylists for the movies, advertising, or the fashion industry. I have to confess ignorance on this score. But they are, we sense, comfortable enough in the material aspect of their lives and for the most part in themselves, for who they are. They are in touch with their own sensuality, with the physical world, and clearly enjoy the pleasures of clothing, jewelry, shoes, ranging from high-end designer to art-world eccentric.

There is, in these portraits, certainly, a celebration of the feminine, a delight in the "style" these women create for themselves and project. At the same time, there is an awareness of the inherent paradox of "style"--that, while glamorous, it carries with it the seeds of its own superficiality, its attachment to outward appearances--which is implicit in what I take to be a hint of satire in these paintings. In making a "project" of the series, I'm assuming that the artist is wanting to discover, in the paintings, something about what these people share in common, how their passion for style is reflected in the way in which they present themselves to the world. What she arrives at is an observation of our culture that suggests a fascinating surface--and a disturbing depth.

Lloyd Hamrol is another friend. I have known him for more than thirty years, and for that long have admired the way he uses sculptural forms to engage the viewer in a participation in the work, often in public spaces where they are in daily "use." (Check out some of these wonderful Sited Works and Installations, which are so satisfying in their relationship to the environment in which they're built, so "user-friendly," so very human in their scale and invitation.) I'm delighted that Lloyd's work is being celebrated at Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art in Culver City, a space I've mentioned before as one that pays deserving tribute to artists whose work should be better known, and more frequently seen.

The current installation is a re-creation of Lloyd's 5 x 9 series from 1966, a selection of the many possible configurations of these playful, elegant objects constructed out of five pivoting elements of plastic laminated plywood, each 6" x 30" x 30". The basic form is utterly simple, the five pieces lying in close alignment on the floor. Swivel them on their pivots, though, according to your preference of whim, and they transform magically into three-dimensional fantasies with plain, reflective surfaces that shift color and shape at shifting angles and in shifting light. They have something of the quality of articulated children's toys made large, for adults who have come to understand the sophistication of aesthetic choice and the pleasures of the interplay of form. (I regret that I have been unable to pirate a picture to post, but the link above will give you a good sense of the work.)

Leaving Culver City, listening to NPR in the car, we heard a wonderful quote from the song-writer Bill Withers ("Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone"--a personal favorite.") The NPR piece was about a new documentary about the elusive Withers, who chose to escape the limelight in favor of a kind of personal retreat. The quote goes like this: "It's okay to head out for wonderful, but on your way to wonderful you're going to have to pass through all right. When you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it, because that may be as far as you're gonna go." Ah, yes!

From the galleries, we drove on--through hideously dense traffic, to the Skirball Center, to attend a fund-raiser for the Progressive Jewish Alliance. More about this in another post. Not tomorrow, since I'm busy all day from early morning until late at night. But soon...

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