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VALLEY WEEKEND : Archetype of Nude Reveals New Meanings : Yolanda Gonzalez explores the theme of self-examination in her painting series, ‘metamorphosis.’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the series of paintings she calls “metamorphosis,”, Pasadena-based artist Yolanda Gonzalez presents variations on a theme of self-examination.

The works seen in Granados 2, an upstairs gallery not far from Griffith Park, project multiple views of a similar image, grappling with the hidden new meanings buried in the archetype of the female nude.

Working in acrylic on wood and canvas, Gonzalez restricts herself to a palette of black and white in her depiction of nude forms--abstract, ample Earth mothers rather than lean figures suitable for stardom and pop culture iconography.

Thick black outlines are stated boldly, like the figurative structures laid atop murky, mysterious beds of smeared and dripping gray.

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The imagery comes replete with Expressionist overtones--including the peripheral African component--and a post-Cubist sense of form, a slice ‘n’ dice way with the picture plane.

Within this purposely limited framework, though, Gonzalez investigates different facets of meaning.

“Purification of Life” seems to deal with the crystallization of form and formlessness as essential poles of life and demonstrated in Gonzalez’s artistic approach. Somber gray tones hum with a contemplative melancholy in “Muerto,” while sexual energies mix with a spiritual aspect in “Intertwined in You.”

“Self-Portrait” is a vertical piece in which the notion of nude-as- metaphor is presented as a statement from which the rest of the pieces flow. With no hint of either coyness or airs of controversy, the nude stands before us, naked without agenda. And yet the nude studies here are as much vehicles for expression as they are ends in themselves.

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Further Variations: If Gonzalez’s show involves a deep exploration of a common motif, the current group exhibition at Brand Library in Glendale is another beast altogether. Call it variations-for-variation’s sake.

The cheekily titled “Brand XXV” is a fairly sprawling, sometimes bland but mostly intriguing art swap meet pulled together by juror Peter Alexander, celebrating the library’s silver anniversary. Don’t come expecting a benign holiday bonbon of a show.

Art history references abound. Manet’s infamous nude, “Olympia,” is the point of satirical departure for Nancy Marsden’s “The Survivor,” a large gilt-framed painting in which the familiar unclad female is now seen wearing a personality-obscuring mask.

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Situated off in a corner of the main gallery, but by no means a wallflower, is Ken W. Oelerich’s flamboyantly decadent “Seven Sins After Otto Dix,” a piece that screams for attention among the quieter expressions in the room.

The artist takes inspirational cues from Weimar Republic Expressionist Dix to an almost comical, almost nauseous extreme.

Here, the imagery of moral decay and festering evil literally bulge off the surface. Hitler, an eviscerated Grim Reaper, and a come-hither nude woman swell into 3-D space, in grotesque relief.

In a related, if historically different vein, Robert Peluce’s six-paneled piece spins off the human comedy to envision life as a flower continually turning putrid. It entails a Breughel-gone-gonzo brand of surrealism.

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The angst parade continues with Dortha Ewart’s “Electrified,” with its vivid black and red scheme suggesting an inferno of Hades-like proportions.

Calmer pleasures prevail, as well, as in Eleanor Berman’s honestly titled “Hedges and Shadows,” a study in green, abstracted forms as found in a lavish garden. Chic cheekiness is the rub with Suzanne Saul’s “Hot Gossip,” a view of kitschy beauty shop chairs, if vinyl could speak.

Robert M. Hopkins’ “Particulum Curve” is a rust-stained relief sculpture, a canvas over wood invention in the form of a wave.

From the photographic medium, we find Joe Manning’s “Until Death Do Us Part,” a sympathetic portrait of a woman cloaked in a blanket, and James Soe Nym’s photograph of a snow-covered campsite. No tricks up any sleeve here.

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Broad-based group shows such as this require patience and curiosity. Be prepared for a little personal editing as you go, and “Brand XXV” manages to be an art bounty worth seeking out.

DETAILS

“metamorphosis”

* WHEN & WHERE: Through Dec. 23 at Granados 2 Gallery, 3221 Glendale Blvd., in Atwater Village; (213) 662-9930.

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“Brand XXV”

* WHEN & WHERE: Through Jan. 9 at Brand Library, 1601 W. Mountain St., in Glendale; 548-2051.


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