On the cultural map of the Valley’s art scene--a scattered but not unhealthy one--the Century Gallery stands apart in more ways than one. For one thing, it literally sits on a far fringe of the Valley, up off the 210 freeway in Sylmar, discouraging walk-in traffic. Fortunately, the shows are often impressive, focused and theme-driven under the curatorial guidance of director John Cantley.
For its first exhibition of the academic season (the gallery is connected with Mission College), however, the Century Gallery’s fare is decidedly nonthematic. The “Biennial Juried Exhibition” is one juror’s sampling of artworks (Jay Belloli, of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena). The media and method vary widely. It’s a fine little show, a warmup before the school year’s exhibition agenda begins.
Some of the more intriguing pieces slither among media--neither fish nor fowl, neither photography nor conceptualism. Therein lies their charm.
The imagery in Nicholas Fedak’s positive Kodak transparencies involves vintage shots of sentimental value rather than objective artistic interest. But the presentation transforms them, as he creates fragments and visual echoes. The ghostly, scrim-like appearance of the transparencies further distances them from the fateful moment when the shutter originally clicked.
The same could be said of Linda Lopez’s “Subject to Change,” with its 20 panels showing various eggs--symbols of regeneration--in charcoal and plaster on paper. A few images of pennies are thrown in, giving added pun power to the title.
For Marilyn English, abstraction is the central mode of operation. She spins out murky textures but punctuates them with bursts of sharper activity. Red splotches, a bit of text--"we’re talking about what’s real” is one--and art-related clips torn from a newspaper are inserted into the frame, deliberately complicating the issue of the art’s message.
In a more somber way, Richard Burland also deals with abstraction as all-over pattern in which texture is king. Jennifer Gunlock’s mixed-media piece deals in dense patterns of lines and scratchings, out of which emerge a nude figure and the moon.
Tara Mozafarian’s paintings are composite creations, built from fragments of the collective unconscious of art history. That’s not an unfamiliar tack in the post-Postmodern era, but Mozafarian presents her friendly collage aesthetic without the typical irony attached.
Landscapes show up in various guises, from the muted green thicket of “Lightness of Being,” by Gihyung Kang, to Elena Allen’s “Skull Rock Trail,” an almost garishly cheerful piece.
As for Billy F. Bauman--who, like others in this show, has shown in this gallery before--landscape has a very specific and weird connotation. He’s fond of drenching colors and desolate scenery, as with “Rock Creek by Lake Powell.” A super-blue lake and bleak, arid surroundings give it the quality of a dream, or a post-Apocalyptic holiday.
Sometimes, a delicate touch leaves a strong impression. Something as simple as labels from imported cheese are fashioned into subtle and light-spirited collages in Jeanne Jo L’Heureux’s “Etichette” series. In these pieces, we get a whiff of nostalgia, or imagined nostalgia, for la dolce vita.
Biennial Juried Exhibition, through Friday, at the Century Gallery, 13000 Sayre St. in Sylmar. Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, noon-4 p.m. (818) 362-3220.