If Frida Kahlo hadn't already secured her position in the pantheon of fascinating artistic personalities, the graphic works made in homage to her by Lucia Maya would do so for her.
Maya's portfolio of lithographs, on view at La Casa del Arte (7592 Fay Ave.) through Jan. 20, are faithful to the style and spirit of Kahlo's own work. Their tight, naturalistic renderings, merging the autobiographical and the surreal, give them the same odd and disconcerting power as Kahlo's own paintings.
Kahlo, who lived her passionate, tragic life in Mexico, maintains her stoic strength in image after image, through debilitating physical injury and frustration over her inability to bear children. Maya, a young artist from Guadalajara, sticks to these familiar themes in Kahlo's life and work, including Kahlo's multiple self-image, while adding several compelling touches of her own.
In "El Elefante y La Paloma" ("The Elephant and the Dove"), Maya depicts Kahlo as a delicate, dwarf-like figure pressed against the side of her overstuffed, oafish husband, the painter Diego Rivera. She enhances the real contrasts in physical stature between the two artists by showing Kahlo as doll-sized and Rivera as too massive even for the page, whose top and bottom edges cut him off, mid-face and mid-calf.
Maya's works outside the Kahlo theme prove nearly as consistent and compelling. A charming oddity again prevails, manifested in dream images of a child levitating, another sprouting a plant from her heart, and a strange interpretation of the Last Supper, in which a group of identically dressed school girls seated around a table ponders a large bowl of disembodied hearts.
Maya draws from Kahlo as well as Mexican tradition in general in showing the grotesque as utterly natural, yet strangely surreal. Her debts are apparent, but she has assimilated them intelligently to bolster her own rich, well-realized vision.
Also showing at the gallery are works by another Guadalajara artist, Adrian Reynoso. Reynoso delves into interesting psychic, physical and biological phenomena in his works, but his attempt to present a unified expression through highly varied materials and styles backfires, resulting in a diffused and disappointing array of work.
Contemporary audiences, weaned on all sizes and shapes of flickering screens, tend to be entranced by anything that moves. Whether the motion indicates evolution, revelation, progress or simply a change of position, a moving subject can usually grab--and hold--our sated attentions.
Long Beach artist Norman Looney exploits the mesmerizing power of objects in motion in his curious kinetic sculptures, on view at the James Crumley Gallery, MiraCosta College (1 Barnard Drive) through Jan. 21.
All three works have hard-edged, minimal exteriors--one is a stark turquoise pedestal, another a mint-green box--with a single open wall exposing their innards, slowly rotating assemblages of flat, cut-out forms painted bright, psychedelic colors and notched together at varying angles. A black light illuminates the paint-splattered forms and inner walls of one of the works, betraying a sensibility deeply imprinted by the 1960s.
In another, the assemblage turns to the accompaniment of recorded drum beats and other percussive rhythms. The forms here assume a vaguely anthropomorphic character, as if participants in a tribal ritual. But Looney's wild colors, blob-like forms and flickering lights make the scene much more comic than spiritual. The motion and the transient shadows cast on the inner walls of the enclosures are at least temporarily hypnotic--in the mode of lava lamps--but the stupor they induce leaves not a trace of enlightenment, enrichment or even sustained pleasure.