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Young Emerging Artists Have an Ear and an Eye at Parker-Zanic Gallery

<i> Nilson writes regularly about art for Westside/Valley Calendar. </i>

As a gallery district, La Brea Avenue lives--it has even been invigorated by the infusion of fresh blood. One new addition is the Parker-Zanic Gallery. It opened in July, spent a few months--and a few shows--getting its bearings, and now is presenting itself officially with a group show called “Introductions.”

“We opened in a fury, and we opened in the summer--a notoriously slow time,” gallery director Mary Pfeifer said. “We’d just like to say, ‘We’re here’ now.”

Parker-Zanic is designed as a forum for emerging young artists, Pfeifer said. At present, most of those represented are in their 20s or 30s. The art shown is stylistically diverse, although much of it has figurative components; the works are further linked in that they tend to be “very detailed, with a lot of body--most of them are very physical, which gets away from the conceptual and the minimal,” Pfeifer said.

Another unifying factor--for now at least--is that most of the artists are also San Francisco-based, many of them graduates of the San Francisco Art Institute. “Somehow it just happened--there’s a lot of unusual talent there,” Pfeifer said.

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But the gallery also intends to be approachable for new Los Angeles talents. “We’re a place that likes to at least talk to people,” Pfeifer said.

Parker-Zanic is named for the two couples who are backing it, Tanya and Lyndon Parker, and Tom Zanic and Joanne Yokoto. As collectors, Pfeifer said, both couples found that after viewing the blue-chip or otherwise fashionable art shown at many galleries, they found that they liked to seek out good student work instead.

Pfeifer said artist Dani Tull, a gallery associate, helps keep her in touch with what young artists are up to. “He’s been a motivating factor in bringing a lot of shy anti-gallery artists in here,” she said.

Parker-Zanic is next-door to the coffeehouse called The Drawing Room; sometimes, Pfeifer said, she keeps the gallery open until midnight and plays unusual music to appeal to the cappuccino crowd.

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With prices ranging from several hundred dollars to $10,000, Parker-Zanic is also hoping to attract--perhaps even create--young collectors.

“People come in and they say, ‘I really love this painting, but I wouldn’t consider buying it,’ ” Pfeifer said. “I say, ‘Why not? If you’re going to pay $5,000 for a couch, why wouldn’t you consider spending that on a painting?’ ”

“Introductions” through Dec. 29 at Parker-Zanic Gallery, 112 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 936-9022. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

COOK’S TOUR: “A painter makes marks, hopes for the best and persists in spite of the worst,” artist Wayne Thiebaud wrote in the Oakland Museum’s 1987 monograph about the work of his friend, Gordon Cook.

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“Gordon Cook, skeptical of what was happening in the art world, directed a magnificent pessimism towards a continuing interrogation of what art is,” Thiebaud said.

That inquiry would no doubt be continuing if Cook--a San Francisco artist usually associated with the Bay Area Figuration movement--had not died of a massive heart attack in 1985, just as a show of his idiosyncratic new work depicting anthropomorphic stick figures was being installed.

A tidy retrospective of Cook’s oeuvre is on view at the Bryce Bannatyne Gallery in Santa Monica. The show, two years in the making, is the first Cook exhibition in the Los Angeles area since 1982, according to gallery owner Bannatyne. It will travel to the Campbell Thiebaud Gallery in San Francisco and the Scott Haller Gallery in New York.

Cook trained as a printmaker and produced detailed intaglio prints of subjects primarily drawn from nature until he became attracted to painting in the 1970s. From then, his subject matter ranged from simple household objects, foods and toys--a mayonnaise jar, a trio of rotund olives, a child’s wooden blocks--to renditions of a cylindrical gas tank on the Point Richmond promontory that he studied from his apartment window in all types of weather and light.

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Among his most personal subjects were Amish dolls--cloth dolls whose faces had been left blank because the Amish believe that graven images are sinful--and figures composed of sticks and chunks of wood that he depicted in prints, in paintings, even in sculpted bronze.

“As portrait subjects,” San Francisco Chronicle critic Kenneth Baker has written, “Cook’s stick figures rival any human image in contemporary art. The stunning thing about them is their expressiveness. Despite being faceless and in most cases featureless--some have a peg for a nose--they look as individual as you please. It is not really possible to identify with any of these characters, yet they make us feel our impulse to try.”

“Gordon Cook” through Jan. 2 at the Bryce Bannatyne Gallery, 604 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, (213) 396-9668. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

APPLE-PIE PIECEWORK: Since early October, the Santa Monica Heritage Museum has been presenting a five-part historical exhibition of quilts from the collection of Margaret Maddox Cavigga. Because of illness, the last two installments of that show have been canceled--and replaced with a survey of contemporary Southern California quilt-making.

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Many of the 40 quilts that will be shown in the museum’s upstairs gallery come from the Los Angeles area--which is a veritable hotbed of quilt-making, according to Danita Rafalovich-Smith, guest curator of the show. The Los Angeles Basin has some 20 quilt-making guilds (the San Fernando Valley Quilt Assn. alone has more than 200 members), as well as smaller specialty quilting groups, including the Challengers, who challenge each other to devise the most ingenious quilts possible from the same block and fabric, and the Scrappy Quilters, who quilt for philanthropic causes.

The quilts chosen for the show run the gamut from traditional pieces to abstracts. There is even a paper quilt--pieced together from photocopied pieces of cloth--that was the result of one Challengers member’s problem-solving.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, my grandmother made a quilt,’ ” Rafalovich-Smith said. But it’s not just “old ladies sitting around.”

An additional 20 quilts will be displayed at the Heritage Restaurant, next-door to the museum. Both buildings are historic houses that were moved to their present Main Street location in 1977.

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The Heritage Museum show complements the exhibition of rare narrative quilts on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through Jan. 13. But there is a conscious difference.

“The LACMA show contains quilts that no one could ever hope to own--it’s like seeing a Picasso or a Van Gogh,” said Tobi Smith, director of the Santa Monica Heritage Museum. “Those quilts are very old and very delicate. The ones we’re showing are very accessible--they’re meant to hang on a wall or cover a bed. They’re touchable; they can be thrown on chairs. They’re something that anyone could either own or--if time and talent prevailed--make themselves.”

“More Apple Pie--Traditional to Contemporary--Southern California Quilters” through Jan. 27 at the Santa Monica Heritage Museum, 2612 Main St., Santa Monica, (213) 392-8537. Open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.


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