Ken Price and John Virtue at L.A. Louver Gallery
Years and years ago a friend gave me a book with a title so perfect I never wanted to open it, as it would never live up to its title, "The Russian Jew cooks in Peru."
When a couple of weeks ago a gallery press release came across my desk, announcing an upcoming exhibition "What Would Jesus Do?", I thought of it as one of these perfect titles, which like fragile butterflies should be admired without being rudely explored. But temptation was too strong and here I am at cherrydelosreyes gallery on a nondescript stretch of Venice Blvd. near Centinela. Inside, there is an intriguing selection of works by six Southern California artists who were asked to create works specifically for this exhibition. According to the press release, the title was inspired by the recent phenomenon of Christian evangelism, approaching the Messiah as mentor, friend and confidante.
The standout among the various art works is a sculpture by Kim Abeles, a well-known Los Angeles artist. Displayed on a shelf, protruding from the wall, is a "Crown of Thorns" made out of a woodworker's metal tools, with nails and wire added to the mix. Instead of drops of blood, here and there one can see a touch of gold. Lit by a spotlight this small sculpture simply took my breath away.
For the record let me say that I am not a Christian. Simply an old-fashioned atheist. What I responded to was a successful blending or - should I say - welding of the mundane with the symbolic. That's where the visual power and poetry of this "Crown of Thorns" comes from. Plus the knowledge that Kim Abeles assembled this sculpture from the actual tools which once belonged to her grandfather.
A few miles further west on Venice Blvd. is the L.A. Louver Gallery with two exhibitions worth checking out. Veteran sculptor Ken Price can make clay dance, sing, and tell tall tales not suitable for children. The eroticism of Ken Price's "sensual biomorphic forms" that he invented in recent years was, until now, somehow tempered. But not anymore. The new sculptures depict a lot of buttocks and sad-looking bulbous penises with sagging scrotums. Neither too shocking nor very original, as far as the shapes are concerned.
Much better are the few table top ceramic sculptures, reminiscent of the tangled roots of a mysterious tree. The surface of all of Ken Price's ceramic sculptures is so uniquely appealing, it is impossible not to touch it. It is as silky as a baby's bottom and shimmers like the folds of exotic Venetian fabric painted by Veronese.
Upstairs are black and white semi-abstract landscape paintings by British artist John Virtue. For two decades, he has ignored the fashion of the day and stuck to his vision. He was a mailman for many years, delivering mail on foot, and kept a sketchbook to draw quick impressions of nature. Now a respected artist, John Virtue continues to explore the terrain of his native land, contributing to the most beloved genre of British art. In spite of the restricted palette of black and white, his canvases are full of grand, romantic passion, likening them to the Old Masters' paintings.
For more information:
"What Would Jesus Do?"
June 15 - July 21, 2002
12611 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
June 20 - July 27, 2002
L.A. Louver Gallery
45 North Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291