The Orange County Museum of Art's newest "Biennial," curated by Irene Hofmann and Liz Armstrong, is absolutely their strongest yet. While we could have lived without a few of the 27 artists in the exhibit—a couple were definitely flashing back on the monochrome and geometricisms of the museum in its '80s incarnation as the Newport Harbor Art Museum, while a couple more made objects that might seem whimsical to the museum but might seem trite to those of us who have already seen plenty of Pop and Readymades at Cal State Long Beach—the fresh work by a majority of them brings OCMA into a beautifully contemporary neoclassicism and focus on the New Figure. Malerie Marder's Untitled, seen here, combines the vulnerability of a Katy Grannan portrait with the isolation of a Hopper. Kori Newkirk's hair extensions as murals and cityscapes are lush and outstanding. And Shirley Shor's Landslide, a sandbox overlaid with computer pixels that coalesce into something like nation-states, is mesmerizing. Even people with ADD might take a good 20 minutes to take in the shifting landscape.
"Biennial" at Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 759-1122. Through Jan. 9, 2005.