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At Sushi (852 8th Ave.), Steven De...

At Sushi (852 8th Ave.), Steven De Pinto, an artist now living in Los Angeles but educated at San Diego State University and the Rhode Island School of Design, is showing an installation and photographs entitled “Altars and Fixtures” at the Sushi gallery.

Rather than use the camera as a machine for simply documenting situations, De Pinto has created environments with a variety of objects, or props, to create a “documentation of ideas.”

Whatever the ideas might be, they are tough. A simulacrum of an electric chair greets visitors at the top of Sushi’s staircase. Above it hang a model of a house, possibly representing security, and a horseshoe turned to keep its luck contained, maybe representing chance.

De Pinto’s photographs are images of elaborate setups rich with symbolism, mystifyingly so. Generally the information they contain is as arcane as the artist’s statement of intent. Nevertheless, they are visually intriguing.

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The exhibit continues through April 19.

Earth Bound Gallery (835 G St.), which will soon change its name to Perspectives Gallery to more truly represent its breadth of interests, is showing watercolors by New Mexico artist Sam Scopas. They are highly stylized and very decorative, but the best of them effectively convey a sense of place with soft earth colors, deep shadows and intense blue skies.

The exhibit, “Missions, Pueblos and Other Things,” continues through May 6.

More watercolors are now on view at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.

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They are images of the Great Plains by respected nature painter George Mattson. They include elegant sandhill cranes, ominous bison, longhorns and a pronghorn antelope. Mattson effectively conveys the reality of the natural world. The exhibit continues through April 27.

Spectrum Gallery, the San Diego artists’ cooperative exhibition space at 744 G St., has two fine shows by artists influenced by travels far from California, hence the titles “Journey East” and “Journey South.”

Ceramicist Eileen Gudmundson traveled to Japan to study the refined aesthetics and techniques of that culture. At Spectrum she is exhibiting plates and jars (really vases) with imprinted leaf and flower patterns--gingko, maple and cherry blossom, for example. She is also exhibiting tea bowls with handsomely austere wood boxes.

In “Sendai,” Gudmundson opposes the heaviness of a basket form (or bucket) with small, natural twigs piercing its handle at either end. It’s a strangely moving piece.

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The artist has a predilection for black, which she has used to good effect in an installation of great beauty.

Donna de Kindig traveled to Ecuador and Peru, where the landscape and people affected her in a profoundly spiritual way.

The serigraphs, or silk-screen prints, that she has created in response to her experiences there are not literal appearances. “They search instead for a visual interpretation of the impact of these places, (which) engendered the emotions that inspired these images,” she says.

Out of her experiences, she has created referential abstractions that go beyond being merely decorative. They seem truly to convey a sense of the places she visited.

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De Kindig has used the painstaking silk-screen process to good effect, achieving both dramatic hard-edge and subtle, painterly shifts in tones. “Altiplano,” a view of mountains, radiates a mysterious light. “Cotopaxi” is vertiginous in effect. “Amazonia” and “Amazonia II” are heavy with eroticism.

The four images in the “Arequipa” series, however, are the least successful, perhaps because they are architectural and small in scale, too constrained to allow the artist to express her feelings fully.

The exhibits continue through April 26.

Vignir Johannson, in contrast, has traveled from elsewhere to the United States, bringing with him some of the pagan energy of his native Iceland.

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In all his works, oil stick on paper and woodcut prints, now at the Natalie Bush Gallery (908 E St.), he uses images of men engaged in strenuous activities. Even in the series of three works titled “Glannagilsbunan,” the figures standing under waterfalls seem braced for action rather than relaxed. (The water must be cold.)

The artist’s vigorous drawing and high-key colors seem to evince a “Neo-York” sensibility and a strong contemporary Italian influence. One questions the staying power of these wildly expressive works.

The exhibit continues through April 19.


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