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Fanciful Foam

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Now that George Lucas’ blockbuster has been reborn in theaters everywhere, the “force"--and the lore that goes with it--is with us, to the point of distraction.

The “Star Wars” mentality is so pressing, in fact, that it’s hard to view Jason Rogenes’ site-specific sculpture at the Woodbury University gallery without immediately reading it as an intricate sci-fi space vehicle.

Not that Rogenes completely dismisses such allusions, with his modular, intergalactic-looking design. Even the title, “project 3.94c,” has a quasi-scientific ring to it. But there’s no getting around the low-tech nature of his materials for the work.

Using only molded foam packing pieces, configured into a puzzle of his own devising, Rogenes has turned refuse into worthwhile art.

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More to the point, though, Rogenes forces us to reconsider the once purely functional white pieces you might find embracing and protecting your new computer or stereo equipment. Suddenly, their complex designs and contours look more fanciful than merely pragmatic.

Rogenes has suspended his huge, looming sculpture from the gallery’s conspicuously open ceiling, locked into a tilted position by extension cords, which also serve to power the fluorescent bulbs lighting the structure from within.

Ultimately, whatever the abstract ideas put forth by the artist, his sculpture asserts itself with a self-conscious theatricality, almost literally.

Considering the gallery’s open but wire-choked ceiling area, and the lack of activity on the walls, the room takes on the appearance of a low-budget film set more than an art gallery.

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It’s as if we’re looking at a rough model destined for an unmade space flick, disguised as conceptual sculpture. Or vice versa.

Ancient Illustrations

After you’ve checked out the festive exhibition of contemporary art from the Kamm Collection in the CSUN Art Dome, head over to Oviatt Library for a more humbly-scaled but impressive exhibition, “Japanese Illustrated Books from the Ravicz Collection.”

These ancient examples of illustrations from the Japanese Edo Period (1615-1868) were collected by the late Robert Ravicz, professor emeritus at CSUN, and are shown here for the last time before they head back to Japan.

These finely rendered illustrated books offer a window on a mostly bygone culture and lifestyle. Represented here are the histrionic, sometimes cross-eyed expressions of actors, but also the tranquillity and sense of decorum of Japanese interiors.

The diversity continues, from “The Illustrated Women’s Encyclopedia for Everyday Use” to “Souvenirs of Edo,” all drawn with the kind of sure, refined hand that gives illustration its evocative power, whatever the era.

BE THERE

Jason Rogenes’ “project 3.94c” runs through Feb. 22 at Woodbury University, 7500 Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank. Gallery hours are noon-4 p.m. daily, except Mon. and Wed. (818) 767-0888, Ext. 337.

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“Japanese Illustrated Books from the Ravicz Collection” runs through March 1 at Oviatt Library, Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. Gallery hours are 7:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mon.-Thur., 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat., and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. (818) 677-2285.


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