Exploring Exhibits in Old Newport and Coastline Community College
Sly humor and marketing genius are the most compelling ideas behind curator David Michael Lee and his "RIBBA|500" exhibition at Coastline Art Gallery. Using Ikea's cheap RIBBA picture frames—specifically the 20.25-by-28.25 version—as his theme, Lee pokes fun at the idea that fine art hangs in gilded frames, while simultaneously setting up his gallery for potential corporate underwriting. I didn't see any placards thanking the furniture store for its corporate funding, so I'm going to assume that idea didn't yield results—despite the Swedish meatballs served at the opening—but rumor is a second RIBBA gathering is forthcoming, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Curating a show by saying the only requirement is that the art fits into a specific frame size doesn't guarantee quality, so the hazy blur of the avant-garde and the mundane makes for a scattershot consistency, with work from more accomplished locals—Amy Katarina, Skeith DeWine, Jeffrey Crussell and Alison Bly Stein, for example—placed next to pictures of puppies and landscapes that wouldn't be out of place at the Salvation Army store. Stand and look at one picture in admiration, shrug your shoulders and derisively snort at the next—that's the spirit here.
Memorable among the 100-plus pieces: Laurel Hungerford's photograph of people upside-down on an amusement ride from hell, the Day-Glo green of their carriage a sweet contrast to the apocalyptic orange clouds behind them; Antoinette Everett's bleak untitled painting that looks like a holocaust has blown through a city, leaving an open red wound and bluish molten glass and metal where downtown once was. Joan Skogshay Sanders' exquisite, vivid pastels capture the red and orange foliage of fall against a rich blue sky in her luxurious Sharing the Light; flourishes of gray, black or white angrily block out whatever is underneath the six small paintings within Linda Brooks' Absolutely Not. Michael Giancristiano brilliantly framed and matted a thin slice of wood with two knotholes for Untitled #1. I'm not sure that Twisted, Brittany Davis' oxidized-metal-and-wire sculpture on a yellow background, is supposed to be a corset, but I like believing it is; Emet Martinez's Paris Café #1 is the perfect distillation of life in that city.
Things are more intimate in Newport Beach's storefront Brett Rubbico Gallery, with its maze-like diversions off the main drag of its long hallway leading from front lobby to back office. Curator/owner Rubbico's latest exhibition, "A to Z," is a five-hander, with most of the work leaning in a Light and Space/Finish Fetish or Minimalist direction.
Craig Antrim's large framed paintings from his '70s "Chroma" series aren't designed to put viewers at ease, despite the pale doctor's-office colors on the canvas. Built from obsessively repetitive shapes, they're cool, detached and mostly uninvolving, any spare nuance of color drowned by a chaotic sea of gray. To my mind, Chroma III is the only painting displayed with real life, its beige, cross-like iterations holding the color at bay, embracing it like a lover instead of suffocating it. Meanwhile, Casper Brindle's new pieces are glossy reductive work, utterly beautiful, his lines and layers of texture and color easy on the eyes. Whether they're suggestions of blurry, smoggy beach fronts or possible seascapes (Green Refraction), the delicious blues and greens sparkle and jump out at you with the kind of surfboard finish that would be the envy of any Huntington Beach grom.
The polyester-resin-on-wood paintings of Christopher Georgesco are equally stunning: Almost like portraits, you can see eyes and mouths in the sharp triangles of black, white and red, the polished wood peeking underneath reminding us that pretty pictures always start from a blank canvas. I loved his painted stainless-steel sculpture Portal #3 Radial Transfiguration, to my eyes an abstract pair of gams, with a soft thigh here and the gentle curve of a calf down there. In that vein, the retro pastels that shine from Eric Zammitt's light-reflecting blocks of cut and laminated acrylic resemble plastic cups and dishware from a bygone decade. He describes them as "paintings," but their dizzying complexity is more the visual equivalent of a mind-numbingly complex aria with a full orchestra.
Rubbico's inclusion of the late Donald Karwelis' outstanding assemblages from the '70s shares similarities to the other work—carefully laid out like Zammitt's, so that color and light reflect off each other; reminders of the labor of creation like Georgesco (staples, stray glitter, masking tape and paint leftovers on the canvas); color transitions and bleed-overs from block to block like Brindle; themes of order and chaos like Antrim—rounding out the show and tying all five together in subtle ways.
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