Something Lost, Something Found


Found object sightings have been occurring with startling regularity around the San Fernando Valley art scene of late. Found objects play a prominent role in Michael Lewis Miller’s gallery full of bric-a-brac at the Brand Library and are the basis of the ambitious group show “The Alchemist’s Umbrella” at the Seven Sainctuaries Gallery.

Meanwhile, the group show “Unfounded” brings found objects into the gallery of Pierce College. Is it coincidence or some kind of conspiracy? More likely, these are simultaneous ripples of a larger concern faced by contemporary artists in a scene without a clear sense of direction.

Artists who salvage real goods for art purposes may be responding to a common desire to connect in some way with a real, tangible world, at a time when electronic media and cyberspace threaten to rock the foundations of consensus reality. There are endless variations possible within the wide open field of found objects, just as the world of objects is virtually limitless.


The four artists involved in “Unfounded” are after somewhat different goals from the other found-object artists in the area at the moment. Rather than celebrating their odd materials for their own sake, the artists are keen on transforming them into something new.

Holly Tempo uses rubber bands and acrylic to create works laced with sexual themes. Suddenly, a rubber band is no longer a rubber band, but an impression of a condom swirling in pools of sometimes Day-Glo color. The power of suggestion is mighty.

Suggestion is half the battle in the work of Flora Ito, who fashions a series of odd sculptures from monofilament and linen that look like wig-cum-helmets or glue-dipped mop heads. The very enigmatic and repetitious fruits of her labor incite our curiosity: We strain to identify her reconstituted objects and, in so doing, meditate on the nature of artistic metamorphosis.

John Peterson creates luminous and textured abstractions that appear monochromatic from afar, but are intricately detailed and sensuous planes of color. The intrigue increases when we read the titles, which are exactly the same as the list of media--for example, “Salt, acrylic & resin on panel.” This tactic is a bit of an in-joke, until you realize the sincerity of the artist’s appreciation for the literal makeup of his artworks.

As for William Rabe, the cultural stakes are higher, and kitschier, at the same time. Rabe constructs ornate sculptures from plastic toy figures--Army men or Neanderthals--or bits of plastic foliage, connected via fastidious joinery. The end results are both quirky and elaborate, recalling the contemplative intricacies and visual echoes of religious art from India, but assembled with artifacts from Toys R Us.


Myths Revisited: One deals with three dimensions and the other with two, but Annette Bird and Morris Zagha are eminently compatible gallery mates. Their two-person show at the Platt Gallery adds up to a cogent examination of the link between mythology, biblical references and art, in a snug relationship.


Most of the sculptor Bird’s work consists of cleverly devised theatrical tableaux in which figures, beasts and unaccountable creatures interact, locked in both conflict and affection. Her source material is catholic, from Adam and Eve to myths of the Eskimos and the Blackfoot tribe.

The largest piece in the gallery is her anti-war statement, “Alexander’s Throne.” Here we find Alexander the Great settled on a graffiti-speckled throne, with Cubist fragments of a twisted female figure behind him. The myth of authoritarian greatness and the dangers of avarice are the pertinent themes here.

A gifted painter, Zagha concerns himself with the artistic transformation of various myths, archetypes and Old Testament themes, beginning with Original Sin, in “Eve the Curious.” Shown both in a charcoal study and the finished painting, Eve emerges as an emblem of lethal curiosity and corruptibility.

The most impressive pieces in this selection are Zagha’s large, round paintings, which could just as easily be placed on the floor or the ceiling as on the wall. These paintings adopt the perspective of someone in the vortex of a dream, as if we’re falling into the scene instead of casually observing, with passive detachment.


“Unfounded,” through April 10 at Pierce College Art Gallery, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. Gallery hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Mon.-Wed., 7-9 p.m. (818) 719-6498.

“Myths and Transformations,” through Sunday at the Platt Gallery, University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. Gallery hours: Sun.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (310) 476-9777, ext. 203.