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Artspace’s Larger View of Portraits : Exhibit: The Woodland Hills gallery’s show features a collection of noteworthy works that hadn’t yet fit into any recent themes.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Appleford writes regularly for Valley Calendar</i>

Artist Merrilyn Duzy’s smiling, winking, happy, embarrassed, brash, excited and relaxed face stared back at her a dozen times. There on the wall in front of her was her own “A Dozen Cookies,” Duzy’s 1985 collection of 12 self-portraits that document a variety of upbeat moods--not to mention hairstyles--from different periods of her life.

The colorful images, passing from infancy through adulthood, take their collective title from Duzy’s longtime nickname: Cookie. “I’ve always liked artists who do self-portraits,” said Duzy, of West Hills. “But by the time I knew enough to do it myself and got the skills, I’d missed all those years. So this is my catch-up piece.”

Her work joins the portraits of 18 other local painters, photographers and mixed-media artists at the Artspace Gallery in Woodland Hills for a group show titled “A Face in the Crowd.” Among the works are the shimmering photo-realistic studies of international marathoners by the celebrated muralist Kent Twitchell, whose work is more often visible in gigantic scale on buildings, freeway walls and other structures.

The wildly diverse exhibition, which continues through Sept. 21, also includes holograms by Steve Weinstock, somber Expressionism from Shirley Kaufer, disarmingly simple watercolors by Don Bachardy and lattice-like photo collages by Mary Laccinole--all of it, perhaps unexpectedly, falling under the otherwise straightforward category of portraiture.

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The show is curated by Scott Canty, who directs the municipal satellite galleries, including the Artspace. Canty was away on medical leave, but his assistant curator, Lynn Nakama, explained that the exhibition grew out of a desire to crowd the gallery with art and artists like never before. More than 100 works are in “A Face in the Crowd.”

“He wanted it to be open to all mediums, which is why we have such a wide variety of artists,” Nakama said. “This is probably the most artists, hands down, that we’ve ever had in the gallery. More works, more artists.”

As with the other satellite galleries, most shows at the Artspace follow a specific theme and spotlight, at most, four to six artists. But Canty’s office had accumulated a collection of noteworthy artworks that hadn’t yet fit into any of his recent themes, which have included shows on spirituality and on the elements of nature.

“We had a lot of portraits coming in and Scott didn’t know where to place them,” Nakama said. All of which finally led to the new Artspace show.

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The resulting diversity is a result of Canty’s broad definition of portraiture, which could include both Barry Krammes’ eerie mixed-media constructions and Linda A. Vanoff’s black-and-white photographs of Jocelyn Brando, the famed actor’s sister.

This larger view of portraiture also included works by Tony Culver, who had always seen himself as more of a street photographer in the tradition of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. His eight color prints in the show are aimed mainly on scenes from downtown Los Angeles and Venice.

His “Boa” has a glamorously dressed older woman, in wide-brimmed hat, fur boa draped around her neck and a department store shopping bag hanging from her arm, as she marches past a young Latino clad in denim. Both stare blankly beyond the other, each seeming to inhabit a wholly different world. And Culver’s “Garden Party” offers a tightly cropped scene of women in a polite frenzy of bright dresses and cocktail glasses.

“Looking at these as portraits is flattering,” said Culver, standing next to his pictures. “I think I’m in good company here. And because people are the main thing that I shoot, I’m perfectly happy with them being called portraits.”

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Culver’s photographs were included in the Artspace show after Canty had seen some slides Culver had submitted to the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies. The square images are part of a “suite” of at least 100 pictures gathered over the last few years.

With homes in Riverside and Hollywood, Culver spends much of his time locally “roaming the streets” with his medium-format camera, printing the images later in his Riverside darkroom without any cropping or other manipulations. “I’m conspicuous, but I try not to be,” he said of his non-confrontational manner while shooting. “I don’t stand there and compose a picture. I shoot it and walk on.”

More traditional photographic portraiture is demonstrated by Shane Sato in an often moody series of seven black-and-white studies of such actors as Keye Luke, Clyde Kusatsu and Sab Shimono. Photographer Garth Pillsbury’s six black-and-white images offer a haunting collection of frozen, manufactured expressions as people in otherwise normal settings wear a strange variety of masks over their faces.

Nearby, Sylvia Shap’s large photo-realistic portraits offset her subjects against bright fields of color. And Linsley Lambert’s “Bas-Relief” series has male faces created in the painted folds and stitches of canvas. One of the works has red fabric dreadlocks hanging loosely off the painted surface.

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And then there is that depiction of Duzy as an unsmiling young boy in a work by another artist and friend, Nancy Webber, who juxtaposes famous images from art history with new photographic re-creations. The picture of Duzy mirrors a painting by Albrecht Durer called “Portrait of a Young Man.”

“I’m delighted at the range of expressions and the range of mediums,” said Duzy, scanning the crowded walls around her. “The nice thing is that it sounds like it could be a limiting kind of theme, but it’s really as open as anything.”

Duzy said she finds none of this surprising since the inherent diversity of portraiture, as with any other art form, is illustrated clearly enough in any class of art students painting, drawing, sculpting or photographing a model.

“Everybody has a different way of seeing, what we put down or don’t put down,” she said. “So everything is a one-of-a-kind in people.”

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“A Face in the Crowd,” an exhibit of portraiture by local artists, continues through Sept. 21 at the Artspace Gallery, 21800 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills. Open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Free. Call (818) 716-2786 .


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