Friday, April 30, 2010

The Galleries: Three Stops...

(I'm happy to report that dialogue is blossoming on Persist: The Blog. The question sent out via various social media was this: "If you're a creative person, how do you define 'success'?" If interested, check it out, join in...! Tweet me! Or Facebook me! You'll be glad you did...)

My friend Jeff Koegel designed the cover for Persist, the book. You can hardly have missed the image on The Buddha Diaries or in one of the tireless (I hope not tiresome!) blasts I've been putting out to spread the word. Now Jeff has a solo show in Los Angeles, and Ellie and I made his show at Merry Karnowsky Gallery our first stop.

I was amazed, immediately, by the sheer volume of work that Jeff has produced in a relatively short time. These are all "new paintings," and there are a lot of them to look at. They're an interesting study in contrasts--between bold swaths of black and white, and areas of bright color; wide paths tracked, often edge to edge, and delicate connecting lines, like spiders' webs, that lead the eye from image to image, shape to shape; elements that suggest landscape, others that are severely structural, architectural; abstract form and representational image; organizational design and lyrical asides...

The paintings read something like those Japanese scroll works, hung in close proximity. They suggest narratives that the viewer can explore, following the path of his or her own eye. The recurrent theme is the relationship between man and the natural environment, a continuing adventure that is dominated by the passage of time and the inevitable process of entrop
y that accompanies it. I happen to love, particularly, Jeff's birds--direct descendants of the dinosaurs, of course, who seem to regard us human beings with beady bemusement, and who can be seen at once as creatures of sublime beauty and ominous harbingers of death. (For images, you'll have to go to Jeff's website, where you can get a much fuller sense of his work. Apologies to him for purloining this little one--I don't think he'll mind.)

Our next stop was at Edward Cella's Art + Architecture gallery, a new space, recently relocated from Santa Barbara, where we were graciously greeted by the owner himself. It's a nicely-designed, clean space--as you'd expect of a gallery devoted to the intersection between art and architecture. And the current show, Frederick Fisher's Thinking by Hand is a wonderful example of what this means. I have know Fred's architectural work for decades, and have written about it in the past, so I was delighted to have the chance to, as it were, watch his mind at work in this exhibition which combines imaginary projects for art museums with, in an adjacent gallery, a host of small watercolor "drawings" in which the architect explores the ideas for these projects.

I loved the presentation of the projects themselves--long digital prints hung as scroll paintings, with crisp images of architectural drawings, finely imagined exteriors and interiors, and a few whimsical asides. And the unassuming, gentle watercolors...

... defy the inherent arrogance of architecture and imagine instead the solidity of architectural forms in delicate blocks of color and assemblages of form, small visual treats that excite the eye and provide, even in their delicacy, a profound kind of pleasure and satisfaction. Their intimacy invites playful interaction, and brings the hard edge of architecture down to a softer, human scale. Very lovely.

The last stop I'll mention was at Acme Gallery, still installing at the time of our visit with three shows. I was attracted particularly by the work of Lisa Borgnes, a fellow blogger, by the way, who works on large-scale "samplers" stitched with wry, sardonic lyrics of her own creation. Go to the gallery site for images--well worth the side trip! Her play is on the domesticity that was expected of women back in the nineteenth century, who were taught to create those often pious objects jusat as they were taught "their place" in society; on feminism and its dicta; and on the current (highly commercialized) worship of youth and beauty. She makes cheerful mockery of the whole mess, and asserts an independence, both as a woman and an artist, that is at once irresistibly funny and seductive. I'll be adding her blog, A Bloomsbury Life, to my blogroll, and hope that readers of The Buddha Diaries will join me in delighting in her musings.

Oh, and don't forget to go see her show.

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