The Best of 9-11

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Yes, indeed, the title of today's program is "The Best of 9/11." Of course, I could have looked for art exhibitions around town that were so painfully bad, it would have justified an alternative title: "The Worst of 9/11." But somehow, my survival instinct suggested that a celebration of good art is ultimately the best way to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel - even if the tunnel is very long and very dark, and the light is, at first, rather difficult to perceive.

Putting an end to the doldrums of summer's art season, dozens of galleries kicked off their fall program with openings that happened to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11. I spent the better part of the weekend running around the city in search of something fresh and worthy of your time. So here it is - a short list of intriguing exhibitions that I believe most of you will enjoy:

1) I started at Gemini in West Hollywood, where I marveled at their latest project, a collaboration between well-known American artist Ann Hamilton and this renowned print studio. Each of the wall-mounted lithographs is pleated and folded into a gigantic, elegant flower, with a piece of fabric spewing from the center. Very mysterious, very beautiful.

at100914a.jpg2) Nearby, at Regen Projects, I enjoyed a double dose of paintings and prints by LA's very own Lari Pittman, one of the most celebrated artists of his generation. One gallery presents a selection of new paintings. And at the other location, just down the street, there is a mini-retrospective of the artist's early works installed salon-style, floor to ceiling.

at100914d.jpg3) A few steps further, at Manny Silverman Gallery, there is a smart, museum-worthy selection of paintings and drawings by one of my favorites, the late Joan Mitchell (1925-1992).

at100914e.jpg4) Closer to LACMA, at Marc Selwyn Fine Art, I discovered very ambitious and richly textured large paintings on paper by newcomer Mimi Lauter, who just graduated from UC Irvine - once more confirming the reputation of this art school, one of the best in the country.

at100914b.jpg5) At nearby ACME Gallery, Carlee Fernandez's photos, videos, and especially sculptures amused and delighted me with her unique sense of humor and very unorthodox materials, which include taxidermy sculptures of birds and animals combined with live plants.

at100914c.jpg6) Back in Santa Monica, at Christopher Grimes Gallery, there is a challenging show of works by Ester Partegàs, a New York-based Spanish artist whose career I've been following for quite some time. Achieving a dramatic effect, she plastered the main gallery with black and white wallpaper of her own somber design, and on top of it, tacked large color photographs of collages of torn paper.

at100914f.jpg7) And last but not least, the Santa Monica Museum of Art has mounted an eye-opening exhibition of the late Italian artist Alberto Burri (1915 - 1995), who for a quarter of a century spent his winters here in Los Angeles. Though celebrated in his native Italy, he is virtually unknown in the US, and this well-researched and expertly installed exhibition no doubt will turn many visitors into admirers of this truly original artist.

Ann Hamilton: Ciliary
On view at Gemini G.E.L. through October 22

Lari Pittman: Orangerie (at Regen Projects) and New Paintings (at Regen Projects II)
through October 23

Joan Mitchell
On view at Manny Silverman Gallery through October 16

Mimi Lauter
On view at Marc Selwyn Fine Art through October 23

Carlee Fernandez: World According to Xavier
On view at ACME Gallery through October 9

Ester Partegàs: Less World
On view at Christopher Grimes Gallery through October 30

Combustione: Alberto Burri and America
On view at the Santa Monica Museum of Art through December 18

Banner image: Ann Hamilton, Ciliary, 2010; Series of 19 unique wall-mounted lithograph and fabric assemblages, with bamboo/wood support; Image courtesy Gemini G.E.L.