Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Not Dead - Only Resting

My apologies to Simon Brett for copping his title. (Brett is a British actor-turned-mystery-writer whose protagonist, a mostly unemployed actor, unwittingly finds himself in the middle of crimes that he's the only one capable of solving.)

The point being?

I've been remiss in keeping up with my posts here--lot's happening, but I won't bore you with my excuses.

Spark-e! subscribers got a taste of what I planned to post here--brief descriptions of the visual arts exhibitions I took in last weekend:

It's a rare treat to have the works of famed artist Georgia O'Keeffe visit the OC, and all the more so in the newly-opened exhibition at the Orange County Museum of Art, entitled Illumination, which contrasts her work with three of her less well-known contemporaries, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin, and Florence Miller Pierce. They all explore abstraction in their paintings, even when the clear inspiration comes from the natural environment. Anyone familiar with O'Keeffe's works knows that she had a knack of transforming flowers and landscapes into broadly abstracted expressions--really wonderful. Thanks to OCMA's Karen Moss for organizing this exhibition. OCMA is also offering two video exhibits, and I couldn't take my eyes off some of these works. One was an ever-changing video projection on a box full of sand that adapted to the contours of each wavy dune. But perhaps the most exciting of all was the chance to sit in the H Box--an innovative traveling screening room, where I watched a city constructed and deconstructed in a sharp and imaginative video by Cao Fei, entitled The Birth of RMB City.)

At the Grand Central Art Center Gallery is a show that will amuse and amaze you, Allegedly: The Hugh Brown Chainsaw Collection. Artist Hugh Brown offers a sweeping history of modern art as he pays homage to some of its greatest purveyors--with the ironic twist of incorporating a chainsaw into each and everyone, like the Roy Lichtenstein parody pictured here. I was particularly enamored of the spin on Diane Arbus's famous 1962 photo of a boy with a hand grenade in his hand in Central Park in New York City--an eerily identical shot, but with a chainsaw, of course. This is another example of the imaginative programming we see in this California State University, Fullerton space in Santa Ana's Artists Village.

That evening happened to be the Santa Ana Art Walk night as well, and the pedestrian plaza in front of Grand Central Art Center was filled with performers, craftspeople and fine artists selling their works. The restaurants were packed: my favorite, Lola Gaspar; Memphis; and The Gypsy Den. Broadway was teeming with people checking out the shops & bars, and we joined many descending to the basement galleries in the ornate, historic Santora Building, including Avant Garden which features a collective of artists associated with OC Fine Arts.

Down the block, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art is proving once again that the talents of its artistic collective can morph to whatever theme gets tossed their way, as in their latest show, Pretty:Disturbing.

@Space Gallery's show Apophenia brings new meaning to the term "rorschach test," with Jane Bauman's vividly colorful creations (see my earlier blogpost about it).

And at Soka University's Founders Hall, you'll find Mark Kirschner's extraordinary black & white photography of Manzanar. The austere beauty of high desert-meeting-mountains contrasts with the melancholy history of the internment of Japanese-Americans there during World War II.

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