975 Chung King Road
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Saturday, December 16 2017, 6pm-9pm
CLAUDIA FRENCH: GROWING COLLAGES
By Peter Frank
The medium of collage can be said to be the quintessential art form of the modern era. Certainly, the aesthetic it promulgates – of rapid, jagged juxtaposition, of quick change and interior contradiction – has dominated the mental and visual patterns of society since the early 20th century. But there is another side to collage, a gentle, contemplative, and even restfully coherent side, that persists in our time as well. For all the wit, vigor, and even disruption that manifest in the work of Claudia French, for instance, it is the “rational” side of collage upon which she draws to assemble her elements into forthright, starkly described images of self-possessed gravity. Employing a medium prized for its discontinuity, French conjures stark apparitions of ponderous solidity – apparitions, however, whose features shimmer with the electricity collage brings to a surface.
The collage aesthetic dominates French’s entire oeuvre. Even her series of quasi-traditional religious icons (based equally on the opulent but austere Eastern Orthodox votives she grew up with in her native Romania and on the florid depictions of La Virgin de Guadalupe and other saints that recur throughout the Mexican culture now surrounding her in southern California) have been built up out of myriad diverse segments. Indeed, French treats collage as if it were a direct descendant of mosaic art. A body of collage work from the beginning of the 2000s, for instance, seems at first to present diverse, or broadly related, images in rolling cascades, the appropriated pictures attached to one another obsessively rather than logically. But French’s hand gently guides the myriad elements into a coherent structure – not a “whole” per se, as she deliberately maintains the quick cuts and jumps of the collage aesthetic, but a rhythmic continuity that covers its ground with wit and brio.
In her recent series, French pays homage to nature, finding in some of its most representative factors – trees above all, but also geological strata, the occasional animal, and the qualities of decay – a sensual field no less than an ecological presence. The renditions of trees range from the nearly naturalistic to the highly stylized and almost abstract; but the fact that, regardless of picture size, they are all composed of collaged segments of paper unifies them into a statement as well as into a format. With few exceptions (exceptions that seem quite deliberately to prove the rule), the tree rises from the soil, defines the vertical center of the image, and, somewhere just north of the picture’s epicenter, breaks into myriad branches and, often, foliage (as well as, less often, fruit). The formulaic armature allows for a great deal of variation, dictated as much – but only as much – by French’s own fantasy as by the species of tree depicted in each work. In all cases, no matter how varied in form, color, or visual texture, the work is constructed of so many (relatively) small collage elements, laid in side by side with others of their ilk to create skies or tree trunks or other pictorial surfaces. It is a visual reasoning, again, that descends directly from ancient mosaic art. It gives the treeworks a multiple quality: that of paintings, that of stonework, that of a cultivated garden, and that of paper, almost of a page. The medium disappears behind the message by alluding to many media. French’s is an art of observation, but equally of construction.
The work immediately preceding the trees set the tone for that series by exploring even more directly the possibilities and ramifications of collage technique. A series of small, colorful abstractions, featuring an icon-like form (or compounded forms) framed by so many undulating rectangles, set a playful tone that is never entirely absent from the tree images. These eccentric presences, decidedly organic but otherwise unidentifiable, hop and writhe like marionettes on an invisible string. Their palette, similarly vivacious, is almost fructose in its sweetness. While working on these, French also realized a contrasting series of collage works composed similarly of many small strips of paper, but this time hewing towards a worn and earthy palette. These materials were in fact harvested from old books, including bibles, atlases, and sheet music, capitalizing on their evocative texts as well as textures. They invite closer inspection, which reveals their discontinuity as much as their antiquity, bringing them into modern form. They constitute not simply a recycling of the old into a newer modality but a kind of eidetic nostalgia, a quiet celebration of the forms knowledge once took. Such forms are at once revealed and disrupted – but never quite destroyed – by French’s recycling activity.
Claudia French has lived in and through the extremes of European culture and those of American. Her use of collage embraces her experience on both continents and her pictorial sensibility reveals a natural link between the two places. In this respect her oeuvre argues for the commonality of human insight; even as her work derives from and contributes to the visual culture of Western civilization, its breadth and symbolic ambition – ultimately resting on that universal signifier, the tree – point outward from Europe and America. French has found her fertile ground in collage, and from it her cultivations show us the world.
PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKS BY CRISTOPHER CICHOCKI, JAY MARK JOHNSON & OSCEOLA REFETOFF
AN OFFICIAL MONTH OF PHOTOGRAPHY LOS ANGELES EXHIBITION
The earth’s landscapes are both eternal and ever-changing. Human activity in the Anthropocene has reworked the character of the topography in majestic, surreal, and troubling ways. Salt flats, strip mines, and the cracks of dry lake beds offer mysterious, often painterly surfaces that tether the universe to intimate experience. Dust on the horizon, in the air, and under our feet catches the light, refracts and radiates. These three artists use photography and photogenic means to both depict and evoke the visual and geological territory of the new terrestrial normal.
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MAGIC AND REALISM
Curated by Shana Nys Dambrot
A Featured MOPLA Event (Month of Photography Los Angeles)
TWO DAYS ONLY April 18-19 12-5pm
Opening Reception April 18 7-10pm
MAGIC AND REALISM
Magic, truth, objectivity, reality. What differentiates photography from other visual art forms is its indelible, inescapably direct relationship to the external world. This tether is both a semiotic and technological constriction, a challenge that has given rise to a seemingly endless debate about photography’s status as a “fine art” rather than say, an “applied art” -- and is ultimately also the source of its unique, evolving appeal.
The pairing of work by photographers Bill Leigh Brewer and Osceola Refetoff -- contemporaries working independently -- explores photography’s paradoxical capacity to simultaneously document and interpret the world around us, to elicit fresh details and construct new experiences and narratives from its raw materials. The interaction between their work is particularly well suited to exploring this dynamic, because Brewer and Refetoff are uncannily drawn to many of the same specific topographies of desert and industry, yet they return with vastly different works of art.
Some of these differences result from the intentionality of how they work. Brewer could be said to work somewhat loosely, guided more by cultivated serendipity than by an agenda -- his camera functioning as an extension of an intuitive attention, his series grouped by evocative formal or narrative suggestions in a subsequent process sorting the harvest of his wanderlust. Refetoff, for his part, sets out in a nearly cinematic quest for certain specific stories he feels require telling, set against and among the details and vistas of an archetypal set of lands -- speaking directly to how humans have historically manipulated these lands throughout the mythology of the American West.
By considering them together, it is our hope that not only will further facets of their individual practices be highlighted, but so will certain fundamental circumstances of their shared medium’s paradoxical ability to preserve evidence of actual events while sustaining personal interpretation, in so doing reconciling documentation and invention, experience and imagination -- and, by somehow showing more than can be seen, to reconcile magic and realism. –Shana Nys Dambrot
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A museum for animal lovers of all ages, the new National Museum of Animals and Society is hosting a two-part Fundraiser Exhibition:
The mission of the exhibit, curated by Peter Frank and Delia Cabral, is to raise awareness about our relationship with rabbits, both the animals and what they have come to symbolize in our human experience. Prepare yourself for the cute, the grotesque, the beautiful...and everything in between! The exhibit will explore our perceptions of rabbits as individual beings, muses, companions, and as dynamic cultural symbols.
Peter Frank, Los Angeles Art Critic
Delia Cabral, Exhibit Producer
Adonna Khare, Bibi Davidson, Bogdan Dumitrica, Brian Duda , Corrie Gregory, Dana Feagin, Daniela Schweitzer, Dave Ghilarducci , Debra Broz, Doug Uyesaka, Georgie Flood, Gretchen Ryan, Heather Mattoon, Inge Dehenin, Jane O’Hara, Karen Florito, Karrie Ross, Kathryn Pitt, Kim McCarty, Kim Tucker, Lara Regan, Marina Hebert, Mark Gleason, Mary McGilli, Michelle Page, Michelle Waters, Moniuque Rebelle, NAMAAK Collective, Nancy Lane, Nina Salerno (aka: Perfect Reject), Osceola Refetoff, Paul W Evans, Paula De La Cruz, Penny Collins, Rafael Perea De la Cabada, Raul Contreras, Rebecca Midford, Rhea Korito, Rikki Niehaus, Sally Ann Field, Salomon Huerta, Sarah Hardt, Sarah Stone, Susan Coates, Suzanne Walsh, Trine Churchill, Valerie Daval
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Contact: Delia Cabral, (310) 770-2525, firstname.lastname@example.org
© Corrie Gregory