It's hard to imagine the Ventura art scene without Paul Lindhard, the quiet dynamo who has been a rallying point for the area's alternative arts community during the past several years. As a sculptor, quarry keeper and founder of the creative microcosm known as Art City, Lindhard has made his mark here, both as an artist and a scene builder.
Under these circumstances, it's perfectly excusable--informative, even--that his current retrospective at Art City II includes personal data not normally included in an art show.
Photographs lining the gallery walls provide a sentimental cloak around the sculpture on the floor and dangling from the ceiling. We find childhood photos and snapshots of the artist as a handsome rock-monger. Lindhard is wont to head off to the desert, in search of stones to work with as well as for the inspiration from such expansive spaces.
Aptly entitled "Into the Stone Age," the Lindhard exhibit is actually a small sample drawn from 20 years of work, an inevitable situation when a sculptor's large-scale pieces have to be shoe-horned into a gallery space. The exhibit does tell a story, illustrating the maturation of his art.
But the 50-year-old Lindhard has a story that goes beyond his artwork.
If he is part and parcel of the Ventura art community now, Lindhard's background is more itinerant. Starting in the '60s, he studied art at Pierce College in Los Angeles, then went to Penn State, the Instituto Allende in Mexico, and to UCSB, after which he taught at Santa Barbara City College. It was while in Santa Barbara that Lindhard built his first studio, dubbed Art City.
In 1984, he relocated Art City to Ventura. In 1990, he started the thriving Art City II, which eventually replaced the original. Art City II provides artists with studios, stone supplies and a hub for activity.
Art City has become an enclave of its own devising, with Lindhard as its ad hoc mayor. Among his recent public art projects, Lindhard worked on benches for the Metro Rail Project at the Culver City station and collaborated with Matt Harvey on the sculpture "Homage to Cesar Chavez" at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Oxnard.
Judging from the sculpture in the exhibit, Lindhard operates from a restless aesthetic, has a passion for materials and has learned the lesson of subtlety over the years. While early works relish the explicit--for instance the graphic imagery of '70s works "Hollywood Head" and "Baja Rhumba"--his newer figurative works are more abstract. By contrast, his recent male torsos are tasteful studies in economical, allusive form.
Often, Lindhard enjoys the juxtaposing of different materials. His "Icarus Flower," from 1979, consists of a gangly bronze plant springing from a boulder. The recent "Self-Love" is fashioned from avocado wood on Belgian black marble, contrasting surfaces that work well together.
One of the most striking pieces from his early years is "Crucifix," a 1975 piece of wood and steel. It features a gnarled hunk of wood--Christ's torso--suspended by wires in the middle of a large metal hoop. A punctured wooden hand attached to the hoop complements the impression of a pared-down crucifixion.
This year's models include the sinuous post-Cubism of "Picasso Girl," made from Picasso marble, and the more elaborate, multi-textured "Blood Moon Over Baja." Here, the integrated elements include a block-like pedestal and a rough-hewn hunk of stone that cradles a smooth red disc--the moon in the title's narrative equation. It springs from a romantic notion, combining forms, colors and textures to conjure an image.
All told, the Lindhard retrospective commemorates the artist's first half a century with a compact flourish. And where better to celebrate Lindhard's saga than in the heart of his city within the city? Yes, it's an inside job, but who's complaining?
* Paul Lindhard, "Into the Stone Age," through Dec. 31 at Art City II, 31 Peking St., Ventura; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Call 648-1690.