If I Were a Rich Man

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I like to think of myself as a rather objective observer of the Los Angeles arts scene, so it's not often that I find myself daydreaming about buying a sexy work of art. Last week I caught myself doing just that - daydreaming - and to be completely honest, I've done it more than once. Here is a diary of my guilty fantasies.

 Bruce Conner, <I>Christ Casting Out the Legion of Devils</I>, 1987/2003; Cotton Jacquard tapestry, 115 1/2 x 114 1/2 inches; Edition 1/6The main space of the Michael Kohn Gallery in West Hollywood has been painted for this occasion in rich blue to dramatically offset the large woven tapestries illustrating scenes from the New Testament. The first impression is that someone got a clever idea to replicate, on a large scale, the delicate, black-and-white engravings. But actually it is new work by well-known artist Bruce Conner, whose long career is full of surprises. For quite some time he has been making small collages based on old engravings; now he has decided to give these collages new life transforming them into large, striking, tapestries. It's interesting to see how, on such a large scale, the slightly surreal character of his original collages is transformed into a powerful spectacle.

Quoting the famous words of Tevie from The Fiddler on the Roof, let me say, "If I were a rich man," I would buy one of those tapestries and hang it on the walls of my non-existent dining room. Oh! What wonderful dinner conversations I can imagine, sitting with my friends under this tapestry.

 Peter Wegner, <I>Architecture of the Air</I>, 2004; Enamel, ink and house paint on wall, 80 x 17 feet; Photo Credits:  Griffin ContemporaryThe gigantic main gallery of Griffin Contemporary in Santa Monica is occupied by new work by the New York based artist Peter Wagner. The monumental work is painted directly onto an 80-foot long wall, and consists of screen-printed letters and numbers with bands of translucent enamel house paint. Think of a crossword puzzle, then imagine it blown up to gigantic proportions and then fill it with the pleasant colors of household paint. While this smart and elegant work by Peter Wagner didn't do too much for me, his special installation in the back room really got me going. In a shallow niche, 10 feet high and more than 11 feet wide he created a sculpture from hundreds of thousands of sheets of red paper stocked vertically like books on a library shelf.  Peter Wegner, <I>Red Exit</I>, 2004; Paper set into pre-existing doorwell, 10 x 11 - x 9; Photo Credits:  Griffin ContemporaryThe artist used three different shades of red paper and arranged them into a complex pattern, creating an illusion of movement of the deep, luxurious red color shimmering on the surface of the sculpture. From far away it looked like a painting, but from 10 feet away it acquired the appearance of a tapestry, and ultimately, upon closer inspection, it revealed to me its simple and endearing secret - that it's made out of rows upon rows of stacked pieces of red paper. Instead of being disappointed I felt enchanted. "If I were a rich man," I would snatch up this piece in no time.

 Robert Wilson, <I>Selected Works</I>, 1969-1999, Installation View; Ace Gallery Beverly Hills, Spring 2004And for heavens sake don't miss the totally intriguing exhibition by Robert Wilson installed with appropriate theatricality and verve in the Beverly Hills branch of the Ace Gallery. Celebrated for his avant-garde theater productions, Wilson has always been, and remains a very original artist. Here in the huge gallery, there are several dozens of his sculptures loosely based on the shape of a chair and made from every conceivable material. I can imagine at least half a dozen of these sculptures moving happily into my house. Sweet dreams.

Bruce Conner
Michael Kohn Gallery
8071 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles
323 658 8088
Until April 24

Peter Wegner
Griffin Contemporary
2902 Nebrska Ave
Santa Monica
310 586 6886
Until June 5

Robert Wilson
Ace Gallery
9430 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills
310 858 9090
Until April 30