Los Angeles Art Show VIP Opening Night Gala

Chinese Portraitby Moira Cue

The first thing that blew my mind was a sculpture by Shen Shaomin, represented at the L.A. Art Show by Eli Klein Fine Art (New York, New York). Crouching near a stairwell in the Convention Center lobby, a cockroach shaped exoskeleton with mantis-like claws morphs into a Triassic proto-mammilian hind leg skeleton, a whimsically morbid allusion to human extinction. How's that for openers?

Upon entering the massive exhibition space, which held exhibition booths from over one hundred of the world's best and most exclusive galleries, I began to sallivate. Some people would have hit the buffet, which by all accounts would satisfy the penultimate gourmet. But in a reversal of my art school days, I was far hungrier for artistic nourishment than physical. I didn't get far before stopping dead in my tracks at Robischon Gallery (Denver, CO) to get an in-depth exposure to the mature work of Feng Zhengjie, a painter working in large-scale (think Pop) canvasses with a restricted pine, fuschia, and white pallette depicting female heads originally inspired by Chinese wedding photography and more recently tainted by a vaguely out-of-this-world, sinister and erotic charge to the model's expression. I would make a second stop of Robischon at the end of the night to examine Feng's catalouge.

Sandro Gebert, Shawnna Schott, and David Wachtel of Gebert Gallery (Venice, CA) commented on the new location for the art show, which has literally doubled in size since it was held in the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica prior to this year. "Size is a luxury here," stated Wachtel. Gebert called it a "step in the right direction," and Schott called the growth in the L.A. art market "exciting."

At Nancy Hoffman Gallery (New York, NY) I lingered over the sumptous, quirky landscapes of Michael Gregory. His dealer, Hoffman, explains that Gregory takes long drives through the American countryside and his landscapes are a combination of places-the iconic desolate Midwestern barn is surrounded by a dark green blur of Chinese Elm or cyprus trees. This, in the middle of nowhere which is quickly becoming someplace else. Viewed intimately, each classic spatial separation, foreground, background, and figuration, is executed with wildly divergent brushwork, the full effect of which is likely to be lost in reproduction. Gregory, Hoffman states, is a "painter qua painter."

Am I dreaming or is it cool to be a painter's painter again? After years of paintings trying to look like photography, one lietmotif of the evening in support of this hypothesis was photography trying to look like painting. Another was the physical presence of painters including Nancy Lorenz (PDX Contemporary, Portland, OR) and Forrest Moses (Lew Allen Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico). Nancy's luxurious use of materials including gold and silver leaf and abalone seashell showed a traditional Japanese art influence, as did the landscapes of Aaron Sorensen, also with PDX. (Nancy's large scale work can be also seen in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hilton). Forrest ruminated upon the influence of Cezanne, DeKooning, and the community, rather than competition, of artists. His contemplative, increasingly abstract compositions inspired by lanscapes in the East and Southwest reflected a painter deeply committed to the best of the painterly tradition, grounded in an organic process of observation. Also present, Korean artist NamGoon Won (AKA Space of Art Company Misoolsidae, Seoul, South Korea) insisted on a photo op.

In addition to artists talking about art, there was one artist, Dave Lefner, making reduction linocuts (where the linoleum is cut out layer by layer to create one color per pull)in front of a curious crowd of onlookers.

Large crowds were no obstacle at Jacob Karpio Galeria (San Jose, Cost Rica)with vibrant, thick, abstract paintings by Andy Moses and Federico Junca measuring ten feet in length and more.

Glamour was apparent, too, in Modernist and/or Art Deco influenced work from the 1920s and 1930s, such as Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts (Beverly Hills, CA). Jerald Melberg Gallery, (Charlotte, NC) exhibited a bright and cheerful plethora of Romare Bearden watercolors on paper. Works by heavy hitters Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, Chuck Close, Franz Kline, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Rauschenberg, and a few smaller works by Picasso and DeKooning were instantly recognizable at every turn. (Especially at Hamilton-Selway Fine Art, West Hollywood, CA).

Bright, pure color found no better devotee than Adi Da Samraj, represented by LA Contemporary (Los Angeles, CA) whose large scale "Transcendental Realism" series vacillates between a Modrian-esque primary color pallette, and one more prismic with cosmic-vibed black and white complex Op geometric complexities.

Equally bright, but less pure, were the graffiti-themed canvases of John "Crash" Matos, exhibited by Wooster Projects (New York, NY).

A few gems eschewed color: Franz Kline's Untitled, 1948, a recent aquisition at Vincent Valerino Fine Art (New York, NY) and a series of fashion-themed women's legs in heels and short skirts in graphite and paper by Cathy Daley at Newzones Gallery (Calgary, Alberta, Canda).

In some booths, I discovered an artist while browsing through catalouges. Amstel Gallery (Netherlands) introduced me to Remco van den Bosch, whose Fame series, like Warhol meets Cindy Sherman meets an American Apparel ad, paired models with objects as accessories, frequently crustacean, with the stated purpose of creating "superstars." At last, a touch of Hollywood.

© The Hollywood Sentinel 2009