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Spring Brings Area Arts Scene Into Bloom : Art: Large number of shows in varied genres is testament to maturing of the area’s gallery scene, observers say<i> . : </i>

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Appleford is a regular contributor to Valley Calendar</i>

With a variety of spring exhibitions in the Valley of works in diverse genres, from folk to contemporary, primitive to post-modern, local and international, observers talk excitedly about what they see as a maturing art community in the area.

Louise Lewis, director of the Cal State Northridge galleries, credited several factors for the increased activity, including the opening of a handful of new community galleries, expanded coverage in local newspapers and a growing cosmopolitan attitude among area residents.

“I’m very delighted that it’s finally happened,” said Lewis, who has often emphasized international art in CSUN galleries since becoming director in 1982. “It’s taken a lot of patience. Certainly just from the small base we’ve had at Cal State Northridge, I knew there was an audience out there. We just had to tap into it.”

The ever-growing numbers of people settling into the San Fernando Valley has only increased that need, said Robert Gino, co-director of the Orlando Gallery, which opened in Sherman Oaks in 1958.

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The Orlando, a 2,000-square-foot space at 14553 Ventura Blvd., was the Valley’s first gallery, specializing in Californian and primitive African works. In its 43-year history, it has attracted a clientele of collectors from as far away as Paris and Israel.

Opening today at the gallery is a showing of “Narrative Sand Cups” by artist Edie Danieli Ellis, who has exhibited at the Orlando Gallery since the 1960s. The work offers cups filled with sands gathered from along California beaches, contrasting the varied colors and textures found in different areas.

After that show, which begins April 5, will be works by veteran California figurative artist Don Lagerberg, including paintings and lithographs. Those figure studies are to be accompanied by displays of primitive African art and a group show designed to promote new California artists. Gino said the Orlando Gallery devotes space to a group of new artists every month.

A show beginning May 3, titled “Still Life Variations,” features emerging painters Jesse Bunch, Richard Ewens, Robert Robertson and Teresa Starkweather.

“They are all new California artists,” Gino said. “They are not young, and they’ve been painting for years. But I’m giving them their own one-person shows.” For information, call (818) 789-6012.

The Artspace Gallery in Woodland Hills has also long strived to show newer painters and sculptors, often mixing them with established names. Scott Canty, who directs the Artspace as art curator for the municipal satellite galleries, said he’s noticed increased walk-in traffic at the West Valley space.

“I feel a lot of energy happening in the Valley,” Canty said. “A lot of people are really interested in what’s going on in the arts.”

Canty said he still hopes to organize the Artspace as a meeting place for local art dealers, which most observers agreed were less a community than a number of isolated rooms across the Valley. The Artspace, as Canty envisions it, would function to help “create a kind of camaraderie between us all. We’re not here to compete with the other galleries. My vision is to support what they’re doing.”

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The city curator had given up on that idea in recent months when it appeared that the gallery room donated by the Voit Co., at 21800 Oxnard St., would soon be rented as office space. But he has become more hopeful since his yearlong schedule for the Artspace was accepted by Voit.

“I’m excited to do something,” Canty said last week. “It’s finding the time and the energy to get it all organized.”

A group show titled “Reduction to Order” opened Monday at the Artspace. In it, local artists Meg Huntington Cajero, Stuart Saks, Shirley Kaufer, Carol Kirsch and Brian Reverman contribute more than 30 abstract paintings that combine images of the formal and the aggressively informal.

Granada Hills painter Reverman, for example, begins with a clean pattern of stripes or checks and then invades it with what Canty described as “chaos with paint splatters and circles and hovering spheres.”

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“It’s pretty wild,” Canty said of the show in general. “There’s a lot of movement and illusion in some of the work.” For more information, call (818) 716-2786.

At CSUN, gallery director Lewis said campus exhibitions in recent years have reflected a broader perspective. The school galleries are treated much like a community art center, actively pursuing larger audiences with student tours and juxtaposing shows in a way designed to challenge viewers.

“We feel there are a lot of different audiences that we can reach,” she said.

On Monday a retrospective of Afro-Brazilian painter Yedamaria Correa de Oliveira opens in the CSUN Main Gallery. More than 60 paintings, drawings and lithographs offer bright, colorful imagery in a series of portraits and still lifes. It continues through April 6.

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“It is very Matisse-like in the approach to color,” Lewis said. “What intrigued me was that this is an artist from Bahia, and she represents a whole aesthetic for the tropical environment, using lush colors.”

Following, on April 22, is the “Annual Art Student Exhibition,” a juried show of CSUN graduate and undergraduate students that continues through the summer months. For additional show information, call (818) 885-2226.

In Woodland Hills, the 3-year-old Renegade Gallery specializes in original art, ranging from folk to decorative works. Such gallery artists as the Rev. Howard Finster, Robert Christy and Thomas Huntington are part of a March group show at the Renegade. Also on display will be several vintage Hollywood autographs. For information, call (818) 999-0966.

“We’re pretty isolated out here,” said Kevin Wallace, co-owner with Gary Soszynski of the Renegade. “People are pretty surprised when they drive out here and see there is an art gallery.”

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Wallace added that he doesn’t feel much of a community among galleries in the Valley. Worse still, he said, is that many collectors who live in the area tend not to buy there, and instead travel to the Westside for their art.

Partly in response to that, Soszynski said he hopes to soon open a “vanity gallery” next to the Renegade, which is at 21626 Ventura Blvd. In the new room, selected artists could rent wall space to show and sell their work without paying a percentage to either gallery owner or an agent.

“The whole Valley I see as an infant,” said Soszynski, who, like Wallace, is also a painter. “But that’s why I’ve positioned myself here. I started this three years ago, and now it seems that there are a couple of other people who are trying the same thing. I feel I’ve got some allies, and I’m hoping to attract some like-minded people.”

Two doors away at the Cobalt Cafe, a coffeehouse that opened in early January at 21622 Ventura Blvd., owners Maia Wright and David Politi offer exhibitions of paintings along with their program of music and poetry readings.

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An exhibition of multimedia batiks, paintings, drawings and assemblages of African influence by the artist Akeke opens Saturday at the cafe. For information, call (818) 348-3789.


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