The Tragic Beauty of New Orleans Echoed in Works of Art

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The Tragic Beauty of New Orleans Echoed in Works of Art

During this time of calamity, further compounded by the turgid obfuscation of the truth by authorities (from the President on down), I cannot help but notice how it all affects my interaction and response to art. I find that I have even less tolerance than usual for the trivial or the banal, in all its many manifestations. Over the past few days, fortunately, I've seen a few art exhibitions, that had a ring of truth to them, reminding me of the old adage that good art never lies which, unfortunately, cannot be said about our politicians.

At the Christopher Grimes Gallery, there is a full-of-surprises video installation by Berlin-based, Japanese artist Takehito Koganezawa. I stood in the gallery, surrounded by rapidly changing images, and couldn't believe that such mundane actions as chopping vegetables, pouring wine or snapping stalks of celery, could convey so much unexpected pleasure and surprise. Image Not AvailableThink about the syncopated rhythms of a good jazz jam session. Through the inventive cutting and amusing interaction of the images, the artist creates a visual cacophony of images, building up to the rich and complex texture of a contemporary tapestry. Of equal importance is the ingenious soundtrack, composed of the most elementary noises and sounds of everyday life, which accompanies this video installation, like shimmering gold thread woven into a medieval tapestry.

Image Not AvailableAn exhibition of the abstract ceramic sculptures by well-known artist Lynda Benglis at the Frank Lloyd Gallery, made me think, once again, about the dramatic images streaming from New Orleans. Not only because she was born in Louisiana, but because her earthy, colorful blobs of fired clay exude both a sense of creation and of destruction. IImage Not Availablemagine dramatic, twisted brush strokes, snatched away from a de Kooning canvas, or the barely contained violence of John Chamberlain's colorful metal sculptures made from crushed cars---that's what I thought about while looking at the strangely liquid ceramic abstractions by Lynda Benglis. They evoked for me the tragic and surreal beauty of the streets and ornate buildings of New Orleans, submerged and reflected in a pool of murky waters.

Image Not AvailableThe exhibition of Spanish sculptor Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942) at the USC Fisher Gallery was a total revelation for me. Born in Barcelona in the late 19th century, he moved to Paris in 1900, where his training as a silversmith and blacksmith served him extremely well when his old friend Picasso turned to him for technical help in making an iron sculpture. Soon after, Julio Gonzalez found himself forging his own abstract sculptures of simple rod iron lines, echoing the movements and gestures of the human figure. Image Not AvailableThis exquisitely installed exhibition, designed specifically for the Fisher Gallery by Madrid-based guest curator Manuel Blanco, is the generous and exceptionally smart gift of the University to our city. Not many museums could pull off such a tour de force exhibition, presenting for the first time--and in depth-such an extremely interesting artist to the American public. I wonder if the brooding sculptures of this Spanish artist will make you think about the art of his American counterpart David Smith or evoke for you the tragic images of Guernica by Picasso. Great art has a mysterious way of consoling us in dealing with the tragedies of life.

Takehito Koganezawa: Dancing In Your Head
Through October 15
Christopher Grimes Gallery
916 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica
Tel. 310-587-3373

Lynda Benglis: Ceramic Sculpture Through October 8
Frank Llyod Gallery
Bergamot Station
25525 Michigan Avenue B5b
Tel. 310-264-3899

Julio Gonzalez: Sculptures and Drawings from the IVAM Collection
Through October 29
USC's Fisher Gallery
USC's Harris Hall
USC Campus
Tel. 213-740-4561