Hitting a Nerve: The Anatomy of Beauty and Horror

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at091006a.jpgDo you remember the olden days when everyone had a Polaroid camera, and the small color photos our parents took on vacation could be found in virtually every household? These days, Polaroid technology is almost obsolete, and one can hardly find the film for those instant cameras. A few people, however, are still continuing their love affair with this medium. Los Angeles-based artist Victor Raphael is one of them, and the retrospective of his works at the USC Fisher Museum of Art follows the artist on his 30-year artistic journey and offers a rare chance to reconnect with this once-ubiquitous form of photography.

at091006b.jpgThough the elegantly installed exhibition presents a number of paintings and videos, I spent most of my time studying the hundred-plus 4x4" Polaroids ranging in subject from self-portraits to close-ups of great works of art to images of distant galaxies, all of them transformed through Victor Raphael's trademark application of metal leaf to the photographic surface. A few golden specks turn an ancient sculpture into a mighty god with a burning stare, while in his self-portraits, the drops of gold emanate from the artist's heart and eyes into the universe.

at091006c.jpgVeronika Kellndorfer, a German photographer based in Berlin, has an obvious love affair with Los Angeles, as her current exhibition at Christopher Grimes Gallery confirms so eloquently. It's Kellndorfer's third exhibition there, and her exploration of our iconic modernist architecture proves once more that sometimes it takes a talented outsider to reacquaint locals with the magic of their all-too-familiar home turf.

at091006d.jpg The exhibition of large color prints by Richard Ehrlich at Craig Krull Gallery shines a light on the inner workings of the human body that he, in his day job as a renowned urologist, knows in the most intimate, fascinating, and – for us regular folks – even frightening way. Starting with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) scans, Ehrlich embellishes them digitally and then prints them on large sheets of paper which are tacked to the gallery walls. Just imagine a visit with your doctor, who takes you on a foreboding and captivating journey through the anatomical labyrinth of your body, where angels fear to tread.

at091006e.jpgAnd speaking of the ugly beast and fearsome beauty, take a look on the KCRW website at the photos I got from New York-based painter Ford Crull, whom I've been friends with for thirty years but never realized that on occasion he works with the camera as well. Being a volunteer at Ground Zero days after the attacks of 9/11 provided him with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see and feel Evil up close and personal – and capture it with tragic, near-operatic grandeur. Beauty and the Beast indeed.

Victor Raphael: Travels and Wanderings 1979-2009
On view at the USC Fisher Museum of Art through December 19

Veronika Kellndorfer: Private Utopias
On view at Christopher Grimes Gallery through November 7

Richard Ehrlich: Anatomia Digitale
On view at Craig Krull Gallery through October 10

Banner image: Detail of Victor Raphael and Bill Aron's 18th St. Subway, 2008; Silver gelatin print with metal leaf, 22” x 28” (framed); Collection of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles, California; Gift of Nancy Berman and Alan J. Bloch