One Critic's Opinion of the Best Work at Irvine Fine Arts Center's Juried Exhibition
I’ll Be the Judge of That
An outsider’s votes for the best work on display at Irvine Fine Arts Center’s juried exhibition. Not that anybody cares. (Harrumph)
While I was obviously snubbed when not invited to be a jurist at Irvine Fine Arts Center’s juried exhibition “All Media 2009,” I’ll suck up the rejection (no, really, I’m not at all bitter) and happily proceed to tell you what I would have picked as the best submissions. Overall, I thought juror Mark Chamberlain did a fine job assembling the many good pieces on display. While my favorites don’t necessarily coincide with his, let’s just hope he’ll be as professional about my second-guessing as I have been about not being invited to be a jurist. Which I wasn’t.
BEST IN SHOW
Play Time, Jody Lynn Dutro’s photograph of a Buddhist acolyte skipping happily atop the whitewashed, tombstone-like ridges of a temple is so perfectly composed and so contagious in its joy that I wish I owned it.
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First Place: James Nordstrom’s excruciatingly beautiful photographs Edward Hopper Stays at Earl’s Motor Court, Edward Hopper Goes to the Gas Stop and Earl’s 66 illuminate the personalities of cheap motels and mini-marts huddled in a Hopper-esque darkness. The luscious neon reds, blues and greens transform them into something out of a James M. Cain novel.
Second Place: Judith Anderson’s visually lavish Viejita Se Alimentando Palomas has an overload of action and eye candy: An old woman, her skin a burnished leathery red from the sun, stoops to throw a yellow seed onto an otherwise-pristine sidewalk, the burgundy and orange walls behind her muted, their plaster falling away and exposing the rocks beneath, as black and gray pigeons are captured in midflight.
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First Place: David French’s glossy, sexy curves bring to mind David Cronenberg. You’ll want to run your hand over them . . . until your fingers get lacerated by their spiky, oblong thagomizers. I appreciated the subtle violence of his black-and-crimson Cain and Abel and the barbed clitoris of Safety Feature, but I wouldn’t want either in my house. You just know it’d start breathing and slither under your bed when you got it home.
Second Place: I own a piece by local sculptor Anthony Foo, so I’m already inclined to like his work, but his Family Ties is really something special. A threesome of white ceramic figures, torsos covered with scales, are strapped together with black nylon ties. Next to them are six black figures with white nylon ties around their necks, the smallest figure with its back to the whites. Are the whites a united front, bound by their race, or are they in bondage because of their hatred of blacks?
Honorable Mention(s): The 10 small suitcases of Lisa Popp’s Duty Free initially look like they’re covered in shiny leather, but a closer look reveals the cases are made from stoneware clay. Loosely stitched together with wire and sporting nifty leather handles, they look battered and used by a tiny, exhausted, carefree traveler. Pamela Jones’ papier-mâchéyellow dog Whatnot—all head and teeth overwhelming its tiny body—is screaming to be made into the world’s awesomest plush toy.
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First Place: Ellen Butler’s A Good Story Is Often Better Than the Truth is a distressed tin that accordions into a tiny handmade book, a variety of found objects affixed to each dainty page. Magnificent and mysterious, like something you’d stumble across while digging in your back yard, its story so specifically personal it makes no sense to anyone but its creator.
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First Place: As with Whatnot, the acrylic paintings of multitalented artist Jones could easily become a small cottage industry. Almond Red is a bleary-eyed monster, teeth and eyes off-center, chaotic streaks of color behind him. Monster Madness is an explosion of Jackson Pollock spatters closing in on the little gremlin screaming at the center of the picture.
Second Place: Joel Woodward’s acrylic-and-paper collage Man Walking feels lifted from Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, its figure of a man in movement suggested by the mottled mass of black and gray around him. Thick lines of graffiti and bits of Orange County map and telephone-book pages glued to the canvas suggest he’s looking for someone—or trying to get away from the red-ectoplasmic-vapor trail burbling behind him.
Honorable Mention: Not really a painting, Bonnie Massey’s Aquatint etching Outcry, with its black ink, browning paper stock and antiquated style, hovers between time periods. It’s not explicit what the group of people here is protesting, but based on the obscured signs, you can make out something along the lines of “not in our name.”
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First Place: Step inside the black burqa/curtains of Sara Jasmine Khademi’s empowering, feminist sucker-punch, Seeds of Resistance, and straight ahead of you are black-and-white pictures of submissive young girls in hijabs. Look to the left or right, and there are grown Iranian women with headscarves holding up pro-democracy protest signs, stemming the flow of blood from their faces, holding up painted-green hands or giving a fierce smackdown to Basij militiamen.
“All Media 2009” at Irvine Fine Arts Center, 14321 Yale Ave., Irvine, (949) 724-6880; www.cityofirvine.org/cityhall/cs/finearts. Open Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Through Jan. 16, 2010. Free.
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