ART WORLD : Lari Pittman: Breathing Life Into His Art


One of Lari Pittman's goals with his new suite of paintings, "Beloved and Despised, It Continues Regardless," was to make the work alive . So alive, in fact, that viewers would feel the paintings were literally talking to them.

"I wanted to make the work chattier and more conversational," said Pittman, whose show is at La Cienega Boulevard's Rosamund Felsen Gallery through Saturday. "I wanted you to be forced, because of the inhabitants in (the work), to talk back at it."

Pittman called his new works, which include six 6-by-5-foot paintings, two massive 10-by-8-foot paintings and an accompanying suite of lithographs, "a litany of sorts" that scrutinize human behavior and the need for relationships. The conclusion, the 38-year-old Pittman says, is that "nothing has changed . . . desire is still a pulsating beat for people."

Of course the "desire" depicted in the works isn't always your typical romantic desire. For instance, in "This Recipe: Beloved and Despised, It Continues Regardless," the artist has placed a pair of connected audiotapes inside a man's reproductive organs. These organs are linked to a woman's large womb, which is linked with an arrow to a young, pigtailed girl. Beneath them is an ongoing traffic jam, which in addition to cars, contains mechanical items such as radios. This, the artist says, depicts the economical basis of many relationships.

In addition to his Victorian-clad figures, Pittman, who in 1983 had his first one-person shows--simultaneously--at Rosamund Felsen and Newport Harbor Art Museum, paints a wealth of symbols. They range from arrows ("a way of directing the viewer in, around and through each piece in the same way that a good sign would do") to coffins ("to show the discussion of death and mortality as not inherently being a morbid topic").

"I don't like stingy work," the CalArts-trained Pittman says with a smile. "My paintings are very active and full. But I always know when they're finished--a work is finished when it comes to a real agitated, full boil." THE SCENE

After four years of operating Merging One Gallery in Santa Monica, Diana Wong is ready to close her gallery. She has taken out an ad in ArtNews magazine offering the space--which is connected to her studio and home--for rent. "It takes up all my time when I run the gallery," said Wong, who is herself a painter and would like to concentrate more time on her own art. "But I will continue doing it until I am able to lease it out."

Michael Kohn Gallery is the latest of those that have moved to Santa Monica. The gallery, now at 920 Colorado Ave., is hosting its inaugural opening on Saturday with an exhibition of new work by New York-based painter Joan Nelson. Already moved into Michael Kohn's old space at 313 N. Robertson Blvd. is the new gallery Martin Lawrence Modern. Martin Lawrence's current show of original works on paper from the '60s, '70s and '80s by artist Tom Wesselmann runs through mid-March.

A show at the Zero One Gallery on Melrose Avenue may literally knock your socks off. Entitled "Inaugural Gooseflesh," the exhibition attempts to channel Salvador Dali's spirit in a seance overseen by a professional trance-channeler. Produced by members of the Actors' Gang and Strike Theater, the "exhibition," at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday nights through March 16, includes interactive installations relating to various aspects of Surrealism and Dadaism, as well as a performance based in part on playwright Andrew Dallmayer's "Hello Dali." Admission is $15. Information: (213) 466-7957. OVERHEARD:

At Sotheby's Beverly Hills preview of an auction of the Harry A. Franklin Family Collection of African art last Tuesday night, a well dressed crowd of collectors, dealers, curators and artists gathered for a last look at a revered local collection that will be sold on April 21 in New York. While a few knowing collectors quietly speculated that a renowned Cameroon sculpture known as "The Bangwa Queen" would break the $2.08 million record for African art, a young man in tweeds told a well-coiffed matron in a Chanel suit, "If you dropped a million or two at an Impressionist auction, you might get a 10th-rate Renoir. If you spent the same amount at this auction, you could have a world-famous masterpiece with an impeccable pedigree." CURRENTS:

The Craft and Folk Art Museum has received two major works valued at $200,000. The works were donated by museum trustee Daniel Greenberg and his wife, Susan Steinhauser, and will go into the museum's permanent collection. The first work, "Fantasy Mural" by Massachusetts-based artist Dan Dailey, is an 8-by-8-foot construction composed of 64 individually etched glass panels that was commissioned by the American Craft Museum in New York. The second is "Rodia's Tower" by New York sculptor Steve Linn, an 11 1/2-by-9-foot glass sculpture that was inspired by the artist's visit to Los Angeles' Watts Towers. . . . In other Craft and Folk Art Museum news, Director Patrick Ela says attendance figures at the museum's new Wilshire/Fairfax May Co. home have tripled from those at the museum's previous site, at Wilshire Boulevard and Curson Avenue. According to Ela, weekend attendance at the museum (which opened on the fourth floor of the May Co. in November) now ranges from 400 to 600 visitors per day. DEBUTS

The first West Coast solo exhibition for landscape painter Lucian Burg is on view at Marilyn Butler Gallery through March 24. Burg lives and works in San Francisco during the winter months and paints in Vinalhaven, Me., during the summer.

Painter James Griffith has his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles at Saxon-Lee Gallery through March 31. Griffith's oil paintings, titled "Hope/Fragments of Nature," reflect the complex impact of man on nature and a changing world view. HAPPENING

Santa Fe Art Colony, a 2-year-old downtown artists' loft complex housing 57 live-in studio spaces for emerging artists, is the site of an open-studio weekend Saturday and next Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Forty-eight artists in 35 studios are scheduled to participate, including Kim Abeles, Trevor Norris, Arnold Schifrin and Rudy Mercado. The complex is at 2401 S. Santa Fe Ave. Information: (213) 583-4011.

Appraisal specialists from Butterfield & Butterfield auctioneers will be at the Newport Harbor Art Museum on Monday. For $10 per item ($5 per item for museum members), the specialists will provide fair market appraisals for furniture and decorative arts, antique and fine jewelry, paintings and prints, Oriental works of art and silver. No appointment is necessary. Proceeds will benefit the museum's sales and rental council. Information: (714) 759-1122.

"American Art in the Sixties," a 1972 film focusing on key figures of the decade, will be shown Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Also shown at LACMA on Saturday will be "Francis Bacon," a 1986 documentary revealing how the artist's way of life affects his vision of the world. The latter film begins at 4 p.m. Information: (213) 857-6000. EARLY WARNING

The Smithsonian Institution is holding a four-day seminar April 24-27 in Washington tracing major developments in American painting from the Federal period to the Armory Show of 1913. "150 Years of American Art" will highlight the works of John Singleton Copley, Samuel F.B. Morse, Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, the Luminists, and Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. Information: (202) 357-4700. ETC.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has restructured its admission fees. Admission for all galleries and special exhibitions is now $5 for adults; $3.50 for students and seniors with I.D., and $1 for children under 17. . . . A percentage of sales of works in Couturier Gallery's group show, "The Environment in Crisis," will go to the Hollywood-based Environmental Alliance for its efforts in coordinating visual art activities for Earth Day 1990. Artists included in the show, which runs through April 7, are Kim Abeles, Martin Betz and Richard Roederer.

Suzanne Muchnic contributed to this column.

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