Last weekend, music was in the air, courtesy of the 52nd Annual Ojai Festival. Not coincidentally, in this town which prepares for the annual parade of music lovers, it was also on the walls and in the windows.
Over at the Ojai Valley Gallery of Fine Art, posters from past festivals, featuring work by such renowned artists as Jim Dine, Richard Deibenkorn and Robert Motherwell, were proudly displayed in the window, with the requisite fermentation of price. Next door at the Bagier Gallery, we find in the window a portrait by Italian Mexican painter Eli De Vescovi of a young Andres Segovia, lost in musical thought.
The music theme continues, in an even more concentrated way, in a show of works in paint and pencil by Ernesto Seco at the Ojai Coffee Roasting Co. Seco has, thankfully, become a familiar source of art in the area, since moving to Ventura County from Cuernavaca a couple of years ago. This is an exhibition worth checking out, over coffee or just for art's sake.
If his portraits of jazz musicians show a sensitivity to that music's particular nocturnal milieu, these images of classical musicians in action veer in a different direction. With these pieces, Seco draws on a mood of introspection and reverie, the inherent aura of serious music-making, but retains the sense of raw intensity of his jazz pieces.
Seco seems to recognize that music's real-time vitality, in whatever genre or garb, is the same. There's nothing stuffy or dry in his portraits of Pablo Casals, seen both playing and conducting. These are, by definition, action shots, rendered with fitting roughness of brush stroke and composition. Max Neuhaus is seen immersed in a cockpit of percussion instruments, and Igor Stravinsky--that star of 20th century culture, let alone music--is represented in familiar slope-nosed profile, an icon in repose.
A small pencil piece depicts eccentric piano virtuoso Glenn Gould, his upper body hunched over the keys, his consciousness fused with the notes. In some aptly abstracted works, such as "Metamorphosis" and "Allegro Molto," the subject is less the celebrity of certain musicians than the sheer act of music being made. These pieces, like the best music heard in Libbey Bowl last weekend, are things of unruly beauty.
* Ernesto Seco, "Suites for Espresso Solo," through June 15 at Ojai Coffee Roasting Co., 337 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai. 6 a.m.-6 p.m., Mon.-Fri.; 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun.; (805) 646-4478.
Elemental, My Dear: Three Ojai artists have banded together to show their wares at the Ojai Center for the Arts this month, latching onto the ambiguous theme of the show's title, "The Elemental Journey." Once you get past the New Age rhetoric of their statements and the presumed exhibition theme, there's some fine art worth looking at.
Kandace Pearson works with paintings on silk, whose often organic and iridescent patterns fall between the decorative and abstract poles.
The light, loose quality of the material plays into the end result of her art, as well as the gallery presentation.
Some pieces literally flap in the breeze filtering in through the door, while one piece hangs from the ceiling like a canopy. But, beyond the gentle nature of her material, there's a kind of volatile energy in much of the actual imagery, as in "Volcanic Fire Pit."
Similarly, you could say that frictional forces are at play in the paintings of Linda Harmon, who uses a soft color palette and favors shapes and lines that curl and enfold, making vague allusions to plant life and biology--organic entities, in any case. "Original Swirl" portrays the image of its title and depicts swirls as both nouns and verbs, spinning toward unexplained vortices.
Often, Harmon's works also extend into multiple canvases, and in odd ways. The calm, symmetrical triptych "Evening Meditation" contrasts with the jagged, discontinuous layering of canvases in "Radix/Light to Form."
In another stylistic corner, Julie Steyer's orderly mixed-media pieces are smaller and quieter than their gallery mates, and reward close inspection. She creates variations on meditative, mandala-like imagery with intricate cutouts adding subtle three-dimensionality. If this art were music, it would be pleasant and cyclical, with melodic content that leans toward the East.
* "The Elemental Journey," through June 24 at the Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St., Ojai. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tue.-Sun.; (805) 646-0117.