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FROM THIS EPISODE

Disappointments, Surprises and Welcome News

Let's start with a mild disappointment and proceed from there. New works by video artist Tony Oursler at Margo Leavin Gallery show him still to be preoccupied with the media's effect on our every day life. If you recall his exhibition at MOCA a few years ago, you may remember his unique way of projecting videos of chattering, grimacing faces on white bulbous shapes which, along with a soundtrack of non-stop chatter, produced an unsettling, surreal but always entertaining result. His new work continues to explore the same subject, but unfortunately it seems that the artist is running out of fresh ideas. The white, soft bulbous shapes he preferred in the past, with their vague reference to stuffed pillows, gave way to chalky-white fiber-glass sculptures, which still can be described as bulbous, though less organic and definitely less interesting. Tony Oursler, But what was especially disappointing were the videos of hideously contorted faces, that the gallery press release describes as "ghoulish." In the past, I was intrigued and smitten by Tony Oursler's phantasmagorical installations, which I experienced as a portal into a forth dimension. His new works make me think of a street performer contorting his body into an impossible pretzel, expecting me to see it as an existential comment on the human condition.

I would recommend the exhibition of large black and white photographs by Michael Light at Craig Krull Gallery to anyone who ever fell under the spell of black and white movies of yesteryear, with their shimmering light and mysterious, dark shadows, receding into a deep pool of velvety black. Michael Light's father was a pilot of a bomber plane who was shot down in World War II and miraculously survived. Michael, who learned to fly in his teens, continues to be fascinated by his father's experience, photographing landscapes from small planes and helicopters. Albert Bierstadt, with his love for luscious landscapes, would surely disapprove of the choice of arid, desolate vistas of Arizona and New Mexico that Michael Light finds so irresistible. Michael Light, Looking at his large black and white photographs, documenting each and every microscopic detail of the landscape seen from a hundred feet above, you feel simultaneously like a scientist looking through a microscope as well as a pilot gliding over the parched surface of the earth. In the middle of the gallery there is a huge book-like portfolio of black and white photographs shot from a small plane flying over Los Angeles. Don't leave the exhibition without asking the gallery assistant to turn the pages slowly. Don't feel shy. Tell them I told you so. Los Angeles, with its tangled freeways and huge expansion of industrial landscape, has never looked more mysterious than in these images, resembling engraved illustrations from centuries old books.

And last but not least, there is welcome news from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art which, with the help of Target stores, has made it possible to visit its galleries free of charge every day after 5 p.m. So with the exception of Wednesdays, when the museum is closed, you can go and see collections until 8 p.m. every night and on Fridays, even until 9 p.m. This is the smartest thing that I have heard in a long time from any Los Angeles museum. Now there is a chance that many more Angelenos can form the habit of repeat visits to a museum which, after all, belongs to them. Once upon a time - more than 25 years ago - admission to LACMA was free, and annual attendance was roughly the same as today. In 1978 when LACMA started to charge for a visit, daily attendance plummeted by almost 70%. Doesn't it make you wonder that over the past years, LACMA concentrated so much effort on building and rebuilding its pavilions instead of trying to make its collection really accessible and free to the very public that its supposed to serve.

Michael Light "Some Dry Space"
Craig Krull Gallery
Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Ave
Building B3
Santa Monica
310 828 6410
Runs through May 15

Tony Oursler
Margo Leavin Gallery
812 N. Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles
310 273 0603
Runs through May 22

LACMA
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles
323 857 6000

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