Sculptor Rita McBride Rhapsodizes Over Rattan


"I work in all different materials, but I think each means something and has its own specific codes," says sculptor Rita McBride, who has three large pieces made of her latest material, rattan, on view at Margo Leavin Gallery on North Hilldale Avenue, through Dec. 22.

"In some ways, rattan is very cheap and inelegant. It has kind of a trendy, '60s connotation--everybody has it in their home," says the spunky McBride, 30. "It's always been used for handicrafts, but nobody uses it for sculpture. So I wanted to see what I could do to transcend that. I don't think anybody's ever worked in rattan before. So I thought, 'I wonder what you can make out of it?' and the answer was anything. "

Although McBride's show at Margo Leavin is her first solo gallery show in the United States, the works came out of a rather large undertaking: their making involved a two-month trip to the Philippines for McBride, and the help of an entire rattan factory in Manila to carry out her painstakingly detailed plans.

"I found it really rough over there, it was very difficult and scary," says McBride, a CalArts graduate who is now based in New York, referring to the political turmoil and large earthquake that rocked the Philippines during her visit this past summer. "Also, it was hard for me to work with the factories, because they are sweat shops, and I had some moral problems with that. But (the workers) were so challenged by making these pieces."

McBride calls "Double-Helix Spiral Staircase" her "most poetic" piece of the show. It features a pair of "Jack and the Beanstalk"-inspired rattan "steps" which are wound around a copper pole and "go straight up into the heavens" (in this case the gallery ceiling). In another piece, "Two Towers," McBride uses architectural forms from a nuclear plant, which she says, are "very beautiful forms, but they're also very eerie, because we know their function and that they could break and we could all die."

The centerpiece of McBride's show, however, is her "Toyota." It's an exact replica of a 1990 Celica GT, made to scale from Toyota drawings and models, except that it is made entirely of rattan.

"I made it because I think cars are really an economic gauge--you can pinpoint a lot of things by looking at them," says McBride, who used a toy car to show Philippine factory workers what the finished sculpture should look like.

McBride's past shows have included solo exhibitions in Portugal and Germany, and local group shows at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and the now-defunct Jeffrey Linden Gallery, both of which featured her site-specific installations. She is also featured in a show opening in December at Artists' Space gallery in New York.


Two limited-edition portfolios of works by 24 renowned photographers including Annie Leibovitz, Kurt Markus, Sebastiao Salgado, William Claxton, Duane Michals and Herb Ritts will be on view at the Fahey/Klein Gallery for one week beginning Wednesday. The portfolios were assembled by Richard Gere and Bill Borden, and proceeds from their sale will go to the Tibet House in New York to continue its support of the preservation and world appreciation of Tibetan cultural and religious heritage. The portfolios are issued in a limit of 100, and the price varies with the edition from $8,000 to $15,000.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art are attempting to lure holiday shoppers with changes in their museum shops.

MOCA has brought in noted artist and designer John Van Hamersveld, who created a full-color graphic representation of the museum for tote bags, T-shirts and posters. Other new products include special MOCA holiday cards, designed by 4th graders at the Loreto Street School in Cypress Park through the museum's educational program Contemporary Art Start. In addition, the museum is now selling limited edition "Earth Day" lithographs by noted artists Robert Rauschenberg and Edward Ruscha, for $10,000 and $6,000 respectively.

At LACMA, the museum has taken advantage of extended hours for "The Fauve Landscape" (Friday evenings from 6-9 p.m.) by also extending the hours of its Museum Shop and Museum Cafe. In addition, free parking is available on Fridays from 5-9:30 p.m. in the museum parking lot on the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Spaulding Avenue.


"People don't realize how hard it really is for artists," said a thin, male artist with closely-cropped hair as he talked with another male artist at a recent downtown opening. "When I had my show in New York, I stood on the street outside begging, and nobody even realized it was me."


The Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art are co-sponsoring a tour to the Russian Winter Arts Festival Dec. 27-Jan. 6. The tour features visits to both Moscow and Leningrad, as well as two nights in Helsinki. Charles T. Magee, former U.S. counsel general to Leningrad, will accompany the tour, which features trips to exotic Byzantine churches and museums including the Pushkin, Armory and Hermitage, as well as performances by the Bolshoi Ballet and Kirov Opera. Tour cost including train and international air travel, meals, hotels and performances is $3,931. Information: (805) 963-4364.


New York-based artist Zeke Berman opens his first one-person exhibition in Los Angeles on Friday at Jan Kesner Gallery on La Brea Avenue.

Berman currently has two photos on view in the current L.A. County Museum of Art exhibition, "Selections From the Graham and Susan Nash Collection." And his previous work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the National Museum of American Art.

The solo show features recent photographs and works completed throughout the '80s, and will be up through Jan. 5.


One-hundred surfboards designed by well-known artists will be raffled off to benefit Heal the Bay on Saturday when the environmental organization holds a "Beach Party" at the Old L&B; Industries Warehouse, at 2100 Colorado Ave., in Santa Monica. Artists such as Lita Albuquerque, George Herms, Karen Carson, Frank Romero and Billy Al Bengston completed their surfboards this summer after being contacted by curator/artist Laddie John Dill, and the boards have already been shown at several local galleries. Raffle tickets are $50 each and tickets to the 8 p.m. party are $25. A special reception with the artists will be held prior to the party, at 6:30 p.m., and tickets for that event are $100. Information: 1-800-HEAL-BAY.

An international conference on the Russian avant-garde will be held Thursday through next Sunday at USC's Arnold Schoenberg Institute. Scheduled panel topics include "The Avant-Garde Defined," "Russian vs. Western Influences," "On the Spiritual in Art" and "Social Realism: An Heir Apparent." The event is sponsored by USC's Institute of Modern Russian Culture. Attendance is free, but registration is on a space-available basis. Information: (213) 743-2878.

A reception and book signing in honor of Sid Avery's new book, "Hollywood at Home, a Family Album 1950-1965," will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jan Turner Gallery on Melrose Avenue. Following the reception will be an 8 p.m. slide presentation with the artist at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Tickets for the LACMA event are $10. Information: (213) 658-6084.

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