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The strength of “Photographing Ourselves: Contemporary Native...

The strength of “Photographing Ourselves: Contemporary Native American Photography,” now on exhibit at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park, is its profound humanism rather than its artistic merit. The images convey nobility--the picturesque, the commonplace. Some have no more interest than anyone else’s competent candid photos; some have a commercial slickness.

Of special interest are Victor Masayesva’s (Hopi) paired images with subtle differences between each pair; Howard Rainer’s (Taos) color studies of children and older women; Carm Little Turtle’s (Apache-Tarahumara) engaging but at the same time repellent images of ordinary people; Pena Bonita’s (Pueblo) color photographs whose alteration with oil pigments intensifies their expressiveness.

Outstanding are Joe Feddersen’s (Colville-Okanogan) altered black-and-white self-portraits with objects, which are memorably mysterious.

Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith of New Mexico curated the exhibition, which continues through June 29.

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San Diego artist Janet F. Colby has created a site-specific installation in conjunction with Sushi’s fourth “Neofest,” an annual festival of the new arts.

Titled “Frontispiece,” the work, filling Sushi’s lobby, functions as an invitation to the performing area. Composed of a variety of abstract forms attached to the wall--geometric, industrial, referential--in tertiary colors with bits of mirror and some glitter, the installation is very successfully and appropriately celebratory.

The exhibition continues through June 28, when there will be a reception for the artist from 10 a.m. to noon.

La Jolla has a handsome new gallery for tourists to visit. It is the Hanson Art Gallery (1227 Prospect St.), one of a chain of six galleries. The inaugural exhibition features the paintings of Hisashi Otsuka, who exercises his considerable skills on and directs his striving for perfection by making works of decorative interest.

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Other artists represented by the gallery include Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali and Leroy Neiman.

The show continues through June 30.

Knowles Gallery in La Jolla (7422 Girard Ave.) is exhibiting figurative sculptures in bronze, onyx and marble by Teresa Cherny. The artist’s embracing couples make love seem like a totally vapid rather than “a many-splendored” thing.

The show continues through July 9.

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Harry Sternberg has been around long enough to see his representational art, always rooted in the reality of life lived and observed, become anachronistic and then relevant again.

Woodcut prints, which the internationally known artist has made during the past two years, are now on view at Brighton Press (320 G St.) and concurrently at the Tobey Moss Gallery in Los Angeles (7321 Beverly Blvd.).

The series of 11 woodcuts, titled “Myths and Rituals,” presents trenchant visual commentaries on aspects of our culture. In “Idolatry” a football player poses on a pedestal above a worshipful crowd of Yahoos. In “Brotherhood,” nude male and female figures climb up one another, reaching toward some indefinable something above them while a priest and a rabbi gaze about indifferently. “Politician” is a puppet knight on horseback slaying a puppet dragon.

Sternberg’s vision has not mellowed in the five decades-plus that he has been exhibiting, nor has it freshened. His intention is to make statements that are both universal and relevant to our time. Their old-fashioned iconography, however, weakens the bite of the righteous indignation Sternberg seeks to express.

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The exhibition continues through June 289.

The Thomas Babeor Gallery in La Jolla (7470 Girard Ave.) has a summer group show of carefully selected works of art, most of which are beautiful rather than challenging.

Martha Alf’s pastel drawings of pears, however, are both. The artist seems to have breathed the color onto the paper, their tonal refinement is so extreme. But they are also tough works of art, idiosyncratic abstractions, despite their ostensible representationalism.

Raymond Saunders’ luscious watercolors are ambiguously flowers and abstractions. Also included are a handsome, expressive, mixed- media painting by Barbara Weldon from her “Soniat Series” and Hawaii watercolors by Billy Al Bengston. Other artists represented are Robin Bright, Peter Alexander and Ann Thornycroft.

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Babeor’s inner gallery is like a mini-museum show with works by Jay Johnson, Michael Steiner, Ellsworth Kelly, Sam Francis, David Hockeny, Roy Lichtenstein, Arthur Dove, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, Beverly Pepper, Hans Hofmann and Arshile Gorky.

This summer show continues through Aug. 16.

The Gallery Store (724 Broadway) is extending “Habitat,” an exhibition of dioramas by artist Donald Hughes, to June 21. It was initially scheduled to close May 24.


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