Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two Sides of Southern California in Adjacent Exhibitions

Two art openings last weekend in Santa Ana offered a stark contrast between "white bread" and "corn tortilla" culture in Southern California.

Santa Monica - The Art of Summer at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art through September 25 offers an eclectic array of works inspired by SoCal beach culture and the beauty of Santa Monica and its historic pier. While not every work sings the Beach Boys, there is a quality of light in many of the paintings that suggests rose-colored glasses even when the subject matter is abstract, satirical or distinctly non-idyllic. The abundance of large canvases dominating OCCCA's expansive space (once an automotive repair shop) were impressive in their style and execution, curated expertly by Jeffrey Crussell. OCCCA is also hosting CAN Castle (riffing on the sand castle motif of its beach-inspired show), inviting visitors to participate by contributing canned food items destined for a local food bank.

Across the street at Grand Central Art Center's Gallery is Detras de las Cortinas (Behind the Curtain), an exhibition of works by SoCal Latino artists through October 17. Equally vivid colors await you here, while the subject matter ranges from more sobering reminders of barrio life to traditional Day of the Dead imagery to model "low rider" hot rods embellished with flames. You won't find abstracts here--real and surreal images dominate. This exhibition, too, has been curated with wisdom and panache.

The concurrence of these adjacent shows (admission is free to both) was certainly not coordinated by these independent organizations, yet it provides an exuberant contrast that makes them, in my view, a tandem must-see experience.

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