Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gallery hopping

Last night I made it to three contemporary art openings at Orange County galleries, beginning with my first visit to @Space Gallery adjacent to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. After that, it was off to Laguna Beach for the debut of a new gallery, Art Projekts on Forest Avenue, and to an opening at the new location of the Peter Blake Gallery two blocks away. (You can view images of the works of the artists mentioned at the galleries' website links. Sorry, but Art Projekts doesn't yet have its website created.)

@Space Gallery has been open for a couple of years and is attracting attention for well-curated choices of artists representing a broad spectrum of contemporary art. That's not surprising, since its director, Julie Perlin Lee, also serves as a full-time curator at the Bowers Museum where she was responsible for the current exhibition of works from their outstanding quilts collection. The current two-artist show features paintings by Anthony Gordon and David Michael Lee, and the exhibit runs through March 7-- a month longer than @Space Gallery's typical shows, due to another important new "exhibition" Julie is presenting in a few weeks--her first child! Both artists were on hand and spoke succinctly about what inspires them and the techniques they use, each pursuing different visions and styles--yet Julie's decision to juxtapose them reflects a keen eye for certain contrasting and complementary aspects to their work. 2202 N. Main St., Santa Ana. 714.835.3730.

I came to the Art Projekts opening at the invitation of sculptor Christopher Schulz, whose work I was not only familiar with but had commissioned previously (for the small bronze statuettes we presented to notables at our Laguna Playhouse galas). Interestingly, only one of his bronzes was on display in the gallery--instead, it was a treat to see several new paintings of his, representing open road panoramas dominated by skies that dwarf the applications of Lesney (later known as Matchbox) toy cars, thereby retaining a scultural element to his work. Owners Sanja Simidzija and Laurie Swenson welcomed me. Besides, Chris Schulz, seven other artists were displayed: Michael Kessler a past Krasner-Pollack Award winner who creates colorful 3D abstracts; William Catling, a ceramist employing found objects and human figures; Father Bill Moore, a priest who paints compelling abstract geometric images; Lissa Rankin, using the encaustic medium; Carolina Sardi, whose framed wall pieces are composed of sculptural steel elements; Daniel Watts, an abstract painter; and E. Gennadia, the sole traditionalist in the show, working in pastels. 266 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach. 949.376.1122.

I've known Peter Blake for a long time, and he has one of the most respected "eyes" for contemporary art among Orange County's dozens of gallery owners. For many years his gallery was on Coast Highway near the Laguna Art Museum, but he recently moved to Ocean Avenue across from City Hall. I'd been meaning to pay him a call--particularly after seeing him at the 2008 California Biennial opening at the Orange County Museum of Art. I ran into Marion Meyer, another prominent Laguna Beach gallery owner, at the Art Projekts opening, and she mentioned that Peter's gallery had an opening last night as well, so I walked the three blocks over to check it out.

The current Peter Blake Gallery showing adds two abstract artists with minimalist influences (Ruth Pastine and Gregg Renfrow) to a carryover show of two representational artists documenting a heritage heading toward extinction (Jorg Dubin and Geoffrey Krueger). Pastine, a New York transplant to Ojai, avowedly maintains that she's been true to her singular, minimalist aesthetic in her work throughout her career, exploring subtle gradations of a mostly muted color palette (except for one bold red painting on display). Renfrow is also fascinated by gradations, but embraces a more kaleidoscopic approach to color and more delineated changes. Dubin is a well-known Laguna Beach artist, represented in many collections, museum exhibitions, and is a favorite of Peter Blake. The subject of his latest works on display is the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station--and how the abandoned buildings and derelict runways are being reclaimed by the land. Krueger is focused on lone remaining stands of eucalyptus trees against the changing Orange County landscape. 435 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach. 949.376.9994.

While the evening proved to be a veritable smorgasbord of styles and themes, it demonstrated a sophisticated spectrum of contemporary art being produced by Orange County artists or curated by Orange County gallery owners.

Until next time...


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