ART : Points of View : John O’Brien selects works that evoke ‘multiple meanings’ in the exhibit of 13 contemporary artists at the Brand galleries.
Art can make you think, and still have a heart.
That concept is one of the central ideas of the exhibit, “Credo,” organized by artist John O’Brien at the Brand Li brary Art Galleries.
“I like to deal with work with emotional cores,” said O’Brien, 38. Born in Japan, the son of an American military man, he lived all over the United States until he was 15, and then in Italy until he was 28. He is spending most of this year in Rome on a Fulbright Research Grant studying contemporary art theory and trying to organize exchange shows. Contemporary Los Angeles artists’ work would be exhibited in Italy and Italian artists’ work would be shown here.
“I like the notion that artists can present their own community, that they don’t need other people to do it,” he said.
With “Credo” he has brought together the work of 13 contemporary artists, including his own, and at least as many points of view. Each work “is meant to evoke multiple meanings,” he said.
“I knew (the show) wasn’t going to be one view based on John’s own point of view,” said gallery director Cindy Cleary. “There are things in the show to provoke people, and I always like to provoke people. Each individual work speaks for itself. What you respond to may be totally different than what the artist intended, but that’s what it’s all about.”
O’Brien’s sculpture, “The Crying Game,” was made in response to his tears over experiences he had with gang members in his Los Angeles neighborhood. They had set up a drug distribution center in front of his home, and asked him to leave the neighborhood by pointing a gun at him. He was shot at several times.
“ ‘The Crying Game’ may be disputable as a conceptual (work of art), but I don’t care,” O’Brien said.
What he does care about is presenting art that suggests a belief system, that advances a heartfelt idea rather than a negative critique of someone else’s notion. He was also interested in showing the work of artists who “exercise a large degree of work, of handiwork, who throw themselves into the making of the work,” he said. “Most of the artists in this show are interested in beauty.”
Mara Lonner weaves the high art material of French brocade through the everyday material of a door screen, creating an attractive, seemingly nature-based motif for her strong but delicate, untitled large wall piece.
O’Brien sees this work, this brocade weave through a piece of hardware as “the inversion of the bias against women’s work,” he said.
Lonner’s “Repair Series,” a group of much smaller screens, presents equally appealing decorative motifs without the use of brocade.
Cowhide is the main material of Barbara Benish’s “Divestment.” Cut in the shape of a map of the United States--and that of a bull, depending on how one looks at it--it presents a sweeping view of the development of the country. Using silk screen and oil, images on the cowhide recognize the country’s earliest Indian inhabitants as well as indicate the effects of 20th-Century technology on the land.
Tom Wolf makes photocopies of his own photographs and then places an acrylic sheet and square-shaped acrylic gels of bright colors over portions of the photocopied images. This process creates several ethereal, sentimental views of “3 Generations” and “Roses, Sunday Morning, Los Angeles.” Yet, the same treatment given to a nondescript building and a homeless person in front of it in “Sunday Morning, Downtown L.A.” generates feelings of alienation despite the attractive color patterns of Wolf’s process.
John Outterbridge calls his totemic pieces “Sun Ships.” Colorful strips of rags hang from the monument-like painted wood figures, creating “festive, celebratory markers to thank the gods,” O’Brien said. “They are intended as gifts of hope.”
Other artists in the show: Wendy Adest, Jean Lee Habenicht, Marco Huerta, Robert Kingston, Willy Lenski, Pam Longobardi, Galidan Nauber, and Mark Niblock-Smith.
Where and When
Location: Brand Library Art Galleries, 1601 W. Mountain St., Glendale.
Hours: 1 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends Nov. 1.
Call: (818) 548-2050.