ART REVIEWS : Rueful Reminder of Alienation in 'Confrontation/Passage/Clearing'

Landscape and space occupy the minds of the three installation artists at Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts. Curated by Josine Ianco-Starrels, "Confrontation/Passage/Clearing" is a strangely remote and timeless intellectual experience of the land. The work has resonance but speaks to a culture fast becoming so alienated from the earth that only concepts are left for contemplation.

Donna Williams' large metal sculptures ride the vast wooden floor like derelict ships amid partly submerged volcanoes. A large heraldic shape painted on the back wall dwarfs the sculptures and bears down on them like the prow of a gigantic ship in the fog. This suggestion, achieved with such spare means, is the installation's strength. But the suggestion is dealt a smarting blow by contrary demands of three conical forms.

Sana Krusoe's "Passage" makes the act of moving from one gallery to another an experience in meandering. Three large, rounded half shells of chalky white covered plywood gracefully come off the gallery walls to bite into a narrow hallway, suggesting a succession of rolling hills. Sensuous yet alien in its crisp white perfection, the manipulation of space is calming but unchallenging.

Connie Zehr's installation is a visual and mental reality flip entitled "A Woods in the Clearing." It consists of a large, somewhat triangular plot of perfectly smooth black sand surrounding a precise square of rich red earth. From the center of the red square rises a 3-foot-high stand of playfully abstract "trees" supporting a dense canopy of green. The effect is a many columned Greek temple.

Two small, alert-looking carved wolves act as guardians at the perimeter of the forest. To the side of the woods is a large tripod and photo lamp that bathes the entire scene in the sharp, pointedly artificial light of a metaphor. Outside the black sand reserve is a stand of short, upright logs which serve both as a reference to real, logged forests and as viewers' seating in this one small remaining symbolic forest. It's a poignant piece with a poetic heart that ably uses scale to bring its message home.

Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, to Aug. 30.

Turning the Tables: Craig Cree Stone criticizes the art world by satirizing its objects. This latest critical foray into originality vs. encoded representation begins with the humble drawing table, a subject Stone has previously explored. For Stone's purposes this table is, of course, a drawing of a drawing table. But since that is just too dumb an ending for this visual and verbal romp, the drawing is also a fabricated object hung on the wall--a drawing rendered in lacquered wood. To round out the circle, the table's top, which appears to swing up in a stunning illusion of movement, actually does flip up. Thus, this table is exactly what it appears not to be but says it is. Clever stuff. A visual mingling of language and reality.

Moving piece to piece, Stone warps the table and an attendant mirror perceptually and conceptually. He literally and figuratively pokes holes in his concept with a battery of drilled mustaches that refer to Duchamp's famous lampooning of the Mona Lisa. Finally, he turns a table into a do-it-yourself blueprint. All this is done with the kind of fine craftsmanship that would please Richard Artschwager and which says the jokes are serious.

Illusion and fine craft are also the realm of sculptor Gary Martin, but his mental gymnastics are less ambitious. Most interesting is "Light," a series of cast bronze floor and wall pieces that suggest piles of objects sliced out of invisibility by a concentrated beam of light.

In another gallery are colorful oil-on-paper paintings by Poupee Boccaccio. Divided in half by color, each split page is filled with cascades of religious and personal symbols that fall like bits of bright confetti. The dense symbology makes these narrative works unnerving. The story line appears to pour out in an excited maelstrom. It's difficult, except in more restrained paintings like "The Magic Curtain," to want to sort out the pieces.

The Works Gallery, 106 W. 3rd St., Long Beach, to Sept. 9.

Space for Aggression: Public spaces turned into galleries are notorious for being inhospitable to the art they present. It's a condition that borders on hostility in the lobby gallery of the West Los Angeles City Hall and it certainly doesn't do painter Charlotte Myers or sculptor Barbara Berk any favors.

Berk's delicate explorations of illusion and pictorial space carried out in three dimensions survive the temporary walls, mosaic floor and multiple level display area, but only just. These plays with mirrored horizon displacement and perceptual distortion around a framing device are tidy little ideas, but they need room for development.

Myers' well mannered Expressionist abstractions based on aerial landscapes and cubistic space can't withstand the slapdash gallery. The surrounding confusion dims Myers' energetic brushwork to near silence and renders her sweet natured color wishy-washy. To survive in this gallery, art has to be as aggressive as the space.

West Los Angeles City Hall Gallery, 1645 Corinth Ave., to Aug. 17.

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