Form with Function & Laguna Art Museum Exposed

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Two Laguna gallerists discuss the relationship between art and social discourse

Jared Linge, director of S Cube Gallery

Creativity is by nature nonlinear, executed with the absence of definitive goals, so to talk about the interplay between galleries and artists and the world is like talking about one big, endless research project. Every variable in the complicated discourse that constitutes contemporary art has a role to play and cannot possibly exist independently. When Sanja Simidzija and I started S Cube in November of last year, this interplay spoke to the idea behind the word “cube” in our name, a 3-dimensional space that formally represents the interaction that takes place when viewing a piece of art, the shared experience between artist and viewer that creates an empathy that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

For example, our exhibition of Mexican sculptor Francisco Esnayra, “Introspection,” featured ceramic busts sculpted with a classical sensibility with giant resin pills for heads. The work served partially as a commentary on the ways in which pharmaceutical drugs interact with our personalities and the magical qualities that we attribute to them. The sculptures were arranged in such a way that all the figures were facing toward the center of the gallery, so that when [visitors] stood in the middle, they had an experience of all these different expressions surrounding them.

While the aesthetic component is vital to a work of art, it is only the means and not the end. It is that interaction, that marriage of visual and conceptual intrigue, that creates the real significance of the work. It’s important to be aware of how we facilitate these interactions and to maintain a directive that speaks to the larger vision that we are trying to communicate.

Lisa Aslanian, owner of the George Gallery

Art has no ideological allegiance. It can act as a form of social commentary, but it never reduces to such commentary or any other sort of ideological push. Take Cindy Sherman’s work for example—her art, part photograph and part performance, explores gender and several other politically charged issues on the profoundest of levels.

Any approach to her work limited to gender, however, will fall woefully short of the mark. Like all art that exceeds social commentary, [Cindy’s] body of work (pun intended) does not lend itself to tidy conclusions. In fact, we cannot reach any conclusions from the work. Instead, we are invited into a heady visual labyrinth of rich, intelligent and beguiling exploration.

The George showcases museum-caliber contemporary art by women. We do not show any art that can be paraphrased in unambiguous feminist or political propaganda. Whether primarily visual or conceptual, photography or painting or a combination of these, each and every artist represented by the George reaches into the recesses of what it means to be alive and to be human. Some George artists take us on a voyage where gender is part of the trip, and others leave the subject of gender behind, feeling as free as ever to explore other artistic and social issues.

Laguna Art Museum Exposed

Laguna Art Museum’s new contemporary art series, “Ex·pose,” kicks off with Peter Bo Rappmund’s haunting cinematic explorations of borders and boundaries. –By Hannah Ostrow

Laguna local Peter Bo Rappmund is exhibiting three films alongside accompanying photographs and hand-drawn maps: “Psychohydrography,” his first, which traces Los Angeles’ water source from the top of the Los Angeles River, through the Aqueduct and through to the Pacific; “Vulgar Fractions,” which explores both the man-made and natural borders that define Nebraska’s state lines; and the world premiere of “Tectonics,” which follows the U.S.-Mexico border from the Gulf Coast westward to the ocean. Laguna Beach Magazine sat down with “Ex·pose” curator Grace Kook-Anderson and the artist himself to talk about the films, the nature of borders and finding beauty in the seemingly desolate.

LBM: Compared to “Psychohydrography,” how was the filmmaking process different for “Tectonics”?

PBR: There was intensity on both sides. With the U.S. side, there was constant harassment by the Border Patrol. They see a camera and they see that as a threat. They were always saying I couldn’t be there, or telling me about how much violence there is and what sort of horrible things had just recently happened right where I was standing. And on the other side, the only other people around that you see are the military, and they’re always driving around with machine guns. So it’s intimidating on both sides. [On the Mexican side], they build up to the fence, and then it just sort of stops, and life goes on. On the U.S. side, there’s almost always some sort of buffer zone—you can’t get close to that area, and there’s paranoia around the entire length of it.

LBM: Did you go into “Tectonics” with any ideas about what you wanted to get out of it?

PBR: I was thinking that maybe everything that was going on that was wrong was some great misunderstanding, and that maybe people were just missing something that was really obvious. But it’s not like that. It’s almost like the wall that’s there is the resolution between the two forces.

LBM: How did that compare to “Vulgar Fractions,” where you also followed a border?

PBR: With “Vulgar Fractions,” I was also going to places that people don’t really go to, but they dictate so much about how we think about an area—but they’re hardly ever traveled to. I wanted to see if there was anything to uncover. I’m drawn to these areas that are on the periphery. They’re always present, and no one notices them, but [they] explain our place better than anything else. That’s my hunch, at least.

GKA: One thing that I get out of “Tectonics” is that, despite our failures that are represented in the border itself, the amazing sense that nature takes over—that forgiveness that nature has. With the border, plants don’t determine how they’re going to branch out. They don’t abide by these rules that we set. That’s where I find the hopefulness.

PBR: You can have the ultimate sublime experience out there because you will see things that are so beautiful and so horrible, and you’re just teetering on the edge of it constantly.

GKA: With “Tectonics,” because it was so brutal in terms of this border that you see, I wanted to try to find something that was uplifting. But “Psychohydrography” is a beautiful film—like [Peter] said, the water alone has this flow, this natural sense of movement. It’s really when it gets to Owens Valley, and the failure that we humans have created that has forever devastated the Owens Valley region—in its beauty, it makes it sadder. With “Tectonics,” in its harshness, I find the beauty. There’s this flip-flop that happens when you’re processing the film.

LBM: With “Psychohydrography,” you’re moving from pure nature westward, whereas with “Tectonics,” the whole time is this one really desolate vision of the human influence on the natural world, so you want to find something greater in that.

PBR: “Tectonics” is like turning a cube in your hand: It’s the same thing; you’re just seeing different sides over and over again.

GKA: Sound is really important in your films, too. In “Psychohydrography,” that crisp water sound is just the most amazing sound ever. You can taste the water just by hearing the sound. And then it becomes more man-made, more humans enter the sound, and that’s where you get a sense of how much we’ve altered that. Looking back at the aqueduct and seeing its effects on nature and on society, or looking at the border and seeing how it influences the U.S. and Mexico—it’s a very postmodern condition. I think Detroit is a good example of that condition as well, where nature just takes over all these abandoned homes, and I think there’s something very comforting in that. But at the same time, it’s comfort within this apocalyptic sensibility. I was in Louisiana the year after Hurricane Katrina, and there were these trees that were dead from all the saltwater that had come in, and there were turned over SUVs still embedded in the land—but within that, everyone was going about their life. The birds were still using the wetlands. Life was still going on, and that’s where there’s this sense of comfort.

Peter Bo Rappmund’s work is on display through Oct. 7 at Laguna Art Museum. Following the close of Peter’s show, the “Ex·pose series will offer a home to eight more up-and-coming contemporary artists. (307 Cliff Dr.; 949-494 8971; lagunaartmuseum.org)

“Portrait of an Artist” at The Ritz-Carlton

Get a more intimate look at select Festival of Arts exhibitors at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Palm Springs-based photographer Charley Akers created portraits of a dozen festival artists, which are on view alongside works by the artists themselves. Charley’s revealing portraiture casts a new light on the festival artists and the works that they create, promising an opportunity to get to know these talented artists beyond their festival booths. The exhibition is on view through the end of August.

As the official hotel sponsor of the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters, The Ritz-Carlton offers unique packages for real pageant devotees: the “Genius” Experience includes two pageant tickets with an overnight stay (starting at $625 per night); to go even further behind the scenes, the “Behind the Velvet Rope” Experience includes preferred pageant seating for two, a guided docent tour of the festival and a backstage tour—in addition to an overnight stay at the Ritz (starting at $1,475 per night). (1 Ritz-Carlton Dr., Dana Point; 949-240-2000; ritzcarlton.com/lagunaniguel)

Exclusive Collections Gallery Opens in Laguna

Gallerist power couple James and Ruth-Ann Thorn recently opened a new location in the historic Hotel Laguna—their first in Orange County, joining their Las Vegas and two San Diego sites. Despite their expansion, the veteran gallerists still personally curate each new space; they hand-selected a dozen artists specifically for the Laguna space, including Daniel Merriam with his vibrant dreamscapes, Tuan with his romantic bronze sculptures and Royo with his impressionistic oil paintings. (425 S. Coast Hwy.; 855-372-8213; ecgallery.com)

 A Modern VisionThe men behind Townley Gallery and San Clemente’s Gallery 104 open a new space for inventive contemporary art from around the world.For some, opening a gallery is an experimental and riotous venture, the realization of a long-suppressed fantasy. Shane Townley and Tim Bean, co-owners of the recently founded Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art (LGOCA), are not those gallerists. This summer LGOCA joins the company of the Townley Gallery, also in Laguna, and Gallery 104 in San Clemente. With the financial flexibility provided to them by running two successful galleries concurrently, Shane calls LGOCA their portfolio’s “final project”: “We’ve taken artists that we knew were incredible contemporary artists but that we might not have been able to use at the other galleries, as far as sales go. So [at LGOCA,] we’re not as focused on the money; we’re focused more on the art.”Shane and Tim received, by their own estimates, about 350 responses to their call for artists, and they personally interviewed over 115 of them in order to select the two dozen artists currently on their roster. None have exhibited in Laguna before. The gallery will feature two of their artists each month, all of whom fall under the category of “contemporary,” as defined here by LGOCA’s creative marketing director Kalina Justice: “Contemporary work … is not just going to spell it out there for you. It requires a relationship; it wants to interact with you, and no interaction is inaccurate.”

July will highlight LA-based Michael Chomick’s heady mixed media sculptures and Cuban artist Adolfo Antonio Girala’s large-scale, meditative and tactile abstract paintings. (611 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-9604; lgoca.com)

Sue Greenwood Fine Art

Through Aug. 15, Sue Greenwood Fine Art exhibits Suhas Bhujbal’s unrelenting color-blocked planes that collide and somehow form a portrait, along with Marianne Kolb’s distorted figures in desolate abstracted landscapes and Terry Turrell’s small-scale carved wood sculptures. From Aug. 20 onward, the space will shift focus to realist painters Susan Bennerstrom and Glenn Ness. (330 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-494-0669; suegreenwoodfineart.com)

Laguna College of Art & Design

LCAD’s latest show features works from Women Painters West, a juried arts association that seeks to highlight innovative female visual artists, whose media vary greatly but who share a creative and cooperative spirit. The group’s LCAD show will be up through Aug. 9. (2222 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949-376-6000; lcad.edu)

JoAnne Artman Gallery

On view in July, James Verbicky’s new show “Force Bloom” picks up where the artist left off—with innovative, challenging works—though this time, he works in “media paintings” that sit somewhere between painting and sculpture, using deconstructed second-hand materials and binding them together to create something entirely fresh. The gallery’s annual group show runs throughout August. (326 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-510-5481; joanneartmangallery.com)

The George Gallery

Running through the end of July, the George Gallery’s “Pop Noir” exhibits just that: noir-infused pop—dark, mysterious visions of American popular culture. Sandra Bermudez’s “Wallpaper” series that draws on turn-of-the-century pornography, and Carla Gannis’ multi-layered digital reveries both ask viewers to look closer, to examine what lies beneath Americana’s striking surface. (354 N. Coast Hwy.; 949-715-4377; thegeorgegallery.com)

Sandstone Gallery

Lynn Welker’s abstracted landscapes and Mada Leach’s mixed media works are on view through July 30. For the month of August, Sandstone will exhibit KL Heagan’s modern landscapes “Chromazones” alongside Howard Hitchcock’s bronze sculptures and abstract acrylic paintings. (384-A N. Coast Hwy.; 949-497-6775; sandstonegallery.com)

Kluver Artworks Studio

“Blues Power,” featuring photography and graphic art by John Van Hamersveld and mixed-media works by David Kluver, has been extended for the month of August. The show, inspired by the interplay of music and visual arts, will wrap up with a closing night party and silent auction to benefit the Jazz Foundation of America on Aug. 25. (3140 Alta Laguna Blvd.; 949-463-5954; theislandimage.com) LBM

AR4T

Through July 28, AR4T hosts “Depths and Beyond,” a solo show from Australian painter Karlee Mackie (“KALM”) that features bold dreamscapes that toy with the intersection of femininity and destruction. In August, Seattle-based artist Brennan Coyle and found-material creative firm Electric Coffin Supply Co. come together to reimagine the garage as a place of undetected artistic rebellion. (210 N. Coast Hwy.; 415-690-6180; ar4t.com)

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