Relevant Art for the Times

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With war looming on the horizon, we are going through an unnerving and unsettling period of heightened awareness of the price we pay for being a Super-Power. Deeply ambivalent about the best course of action, we watch our friends and allies second-guessing our intentions and motivations. In less charged times, I open my morning papers with a quick glance at the front page and then settle on the art section. Not anymore. In fact, in recent weeks it's been rather difficult for me to find a gallery or museum exhibition that felt relevant and meaningful in the current political climate.

Not surprisingly, I went back to see the MOCA exhibition of brooding portraits by Lucian Freud. Actually, I've been back four times, going there with various friends, having wonderful conversations and good arguments. It's remarkable how this artist makes us experience these people in all the complexity and fragility of their psyches, and acute sense of the mortality of their bodies. If you, like me, simply can't have enough of Freud's art, there is a cure: at the Forum Gallery, there is a small but highly satisfying exhibition of fifteen of his etchings, including one never shown before. It's tempting to quote Tevya from "Fiddler On The Roof" with his famous lament, "If I were a rich man-". Myself, I would buy a small, powerful, no-nonsense etching by Lucian Freud, so I could put it in a special place in my home where I could see it all the time, especially when in doubt.

Another exhibition that seems worth mentioning in this context, is Peter Voulkos at the Frank Lloyd Gallery. It's the first exhibition of his bronze and ceramic sculptures since his death last year at the age of 78. The roughness and sensuality of his work make a strong case for the ability of abstract art to evoke complex emotional and intellectual responses. With every passing year, the significance of the art of this California artist becomes more and more obvious. He not only created his own unique vocabulary of eloquent shapes and forms, he was also the first to successfully use clay for monumental sculptures traditionally made of metal or stone.

A welcome contrast to the physicality and density of Freud and Voulkos' work is the exhibition of Brazilian artist Waltercio Caldas at Christopher Grimes Gallery. His preferred way of communicating in his art installations is through very disciplined, minimalist language of simple, geometric forms. Simple, but far from simplistic. The main gallery has a few installations where large rectangles of pure color applied to the wall, juxtaposed with elegant geometric sculptures of stainless steel and colored thread. The first thought you might have is of cold perfection and mind games. But give yourself time. There is poetry there, reminiscent of Haiku, with its compression, economy and elegant sparseness.

"Lucian Freud: Works On Paper"
February 28 - April 12, 2003
Forum Gallery
8069 Beverly Blvd. (at Crescent Heights)
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 655-1550

"Peter Voulkos , Selected Work 1953-2000"
March 8 - April 5, 2003
Frank Lloyd Gallery, Inc.
2525 Michigan Avenue, B5b
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 264-2866

Waltercio Caldes
March 1 - April 5, 2003
Christopher Grimes Gallery
916 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 587-3383