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Gallery Tips Its Beret to Works of the French

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

Los Angeles is a smorgasbord of cultures, so it only seems fitting that the city should serve up a little bit of everything in terms of art. Those who have had their fill of American art--for whatever reason--always have plenty of alternatives to pick from. Why not, for instance, sample some nouveau French fare for a change?

That is what Gallery B and B is offering. Tucked away in a residential block of Venice north of Lincoln Boulevard, the new gallery is the latest venture of Jean-Louis and Anne Breux, who are branching out from their art restoration and interior design businesses, respectively.

Gallery B and B is seeking to introduce Los Angeles to reasonably priced, predominantly figurative work by a group of emerging and mid-career French painters. Among the artists represented are Gilbert Cosset, Andre Raffin and Jacques Barry (whose work is on view)--names that hardly ring a bell in art circles here.

But then the Breux never planned to direct their gallery at those who choose their art according to fashion or big-name recognition. According to Jean-Louis Breux, a longtime collector of emerging art from his native France, even the gallery’s obscure location has certain benefits. “All the people who come here are interested in the art,” he said. “It’s not like Main Street, where people come in because they are shopping.”

Gallery B and B also plans to hold occasional group shows featuring the many artists who live in its neighborhood. During November, for instance, the gallery presented a “Palms Boulevard Group Exhibition,” featuring the work of seven artists--including Ed Moses--who live within a block of B and B. Breux said he is hoping to put together a similar show for artists living on nearby San Juan Avenue.

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Breux is aware of the cultural hurdles facing an enterprise such as his. It’s not just that tastes, even in humor, are different in the United States and France, he said; even how one buys art seems different.

Being of Latin temperament, Breux said, he has often chosen art according to his immediate feelings, which have included coup de foudre-- love at first sight.

“Here,” he said, “people often want to know how much a painting is worth.”

Jacques Barry, through Jan. 20 at the Gallery B and B, 1154 Palms Blvd., Venice, (213) 452-7914. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

WINTER FRUIT: It’s no accident that Cecelia Davidson’s show of recent monotypes and paintings at the Christopher John Gallery in Santa Monica should have been scheduled at this holiday time--although it carries no direct references to Christmas. But there is an occasional angel, and there is gold leaf amid the ink and the strong acrylic colors.

And as gallery owner John Greco noted: “Her themes worked into giving, taking and receiving.”

In an artist’s statement accompanying the show, Davidson--who paints classical-style fragments of herself, often juxtaposing them in diptychs alongside outstretched hands and proffered fruit--said she is particularly fascinated with temptation.

In fact, her works carry titles such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The Temptation of Eve,” even the evocatively coined “Tauntation.”

“To actually partake of the knowledge of good and evil, to understand and absorb both the pleasure and the pain is the ultimate temptation in living,” Davidson wrote. “Faced with these moments of decision, I choose to eat the fruit.”

Cecelia Davidson, “Fragments and Memoirs,” through Jan. 13 at the Christopher John Gallery, 2928 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 453-4418. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

NOAH’S ART: At first glance, it looks more like a jampacked gift store than a gallery. And indeed, the Zoo Gallery--on Little Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills--is the place to go if you’re looking for a moose teapot, a skunk pin or just about anything on that ubiquitous black-and-white cow theme.

But owner Yvette Silvera opened the Zoo Gallery--which sells only objects depicting animals--as a folk art collector. And scattered within the profusion of craft and novelty items is folk art bearing museum-style labels that identify the artist, working method and price.

Among the pieces available recently was a whirligig by Alabama-born Colin Richmond, depicting a bicycling tiger holding a parasol aloft in each hand.

Parading along the rim of fetish bowls by Los Angeles artist Robin Spear were animal forms with symbolic offerings tied to their backs, as in certain American Indian cultures; in this modern-day case, however, the objects borne included miniature telephones, champagne bottles, Wall Street Journals, and servings of bagels and cream cheese.

Also on view were masks by Arnold Schulenberg. According to the gallery’s description of his work, Schulenberg “waits for a good strong Santa Ana wind,” then collects fallen palm fronds (the ones “with character”) that he pares down, prepares with gesso, then paints in bright acrylic hues.

Silvera said the Zoo Gallery sells partly to folk art admirers such as herself who have general collections. But about half of the gallery’s customers, she said, are very specific collectors who seek out “anything in their animal"--be it hedgehog, moose or skunk.

And like it or not, black-and-white cows are still holding strong, as are pigs of every description. “When we chose the name Zoo Gallery, we thought it would be mostly jungle animals,” Silvera said. “But farm animals are still No. 1.”

Why is that?

“Perhaps because people wish they weren’t living in the city?” Silvera said. “We try to figure it out all day long.”

Zoo Gallery, 9632 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (213) 278-3873. Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (call for Sunday and evening hours in December).


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