Photo by Jeanne RiceSanta Ana's Artists Village is an awfully pleasant place. The ornate Santora Arts Complex, with its grand staircases and thick green carpets, is one of the warmest, prettiest public buildings in the county. The Empire Building across Broadway features funky artists' studios. The renovated Grand Central building now has a big Gypsy Den positively bustling with artists from Cal State Fullerton's graduate apartments upstairs and suits from the nearby Ronald Reagan Federal Building, which positively dwarfs the Artists Village like some monstrous edifice from a Tim Burton horror show. There's a courtyard in the Village, a tiled promenade, a barber shop. But it's lazy in August; some exhibits, like "Sig-Alert 2" at Grand Central, are hanging on from last month's opening. Other spaces were closed during Aug. 7's big opening. Still others are closed permanently. The Patrick Webster Gallery—which put up one of the edgier exhibits recently with a show that seemed to focus on hot lifeguard nookie—has drawn its shutters. Upstairs, glass walls showcase almost-deserted galleries—except for one that has been taken over by a "design" company, which showcases lots of pretty furniture.
That said, there's still lots good about the Artists Village: Joseph Musil's theater-design dioramas are always charming, though you can only see them so many times. The Ed Giardina Gallery is still exhibiting flip, modern monstrosities—this time showing what looks like those white vent hoses from the back of one's dryer, edged with bright orange paint instead of the usual Finish Fetish scumbled white-on-white-on-white. They're properly elephantine and graceless, dangling awkwardly and bulbously.
Meanwhile, in the sales gallery at Grand Central, Betsy Kenyon's Holeseries is just that: a series of oval-framed photos of the knots in tree trunks. They're gratifyingly chunky and roughly textured—and intentionally obscene. Aren't you glad vaginas are made out of skin instead of tree bark? The only iffy part is the ber-retro framing, which is done in orange plaids and pea-green flowers and checks. We can't decide whether the hideousness of it all detracts or adds to it by mimicking the '70s homemakers who would have framed their crisp Ansel Adams paeans to nature thus.
In the Ed Giardina Annex in the frame shop under the Santora, Giardina accomplice Joel Heflin exhibits intriguing photos of the kind of big sky only seen in Montana or Arizona —where, in fact, Heflin is from. Clouds billow ominously, backlit like a religious painting of God in heaven. Superimposed are mathematical equations and sprawling molecular models in tinny white type. The molecular patterns ape the shapes of the clouds, fluffing themselves across the silver sky like cotton candy.
Down in the basement, Kathryn Comfort has some fun, angry oil portraits—gruff, imposing and Expressionistic—and Michael Maas has continued his O'Keefeian lilies by the hundred, but now, instead of vaginas, they're all cheery red-and-yellow penises inserting themselves between leaves that look like firm buns. We wonder how his lovely wife feels about that?
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Skeith De Wine is showing old works made new in "Infornication" at Max Presneill's British Lime Gallery. The figurative works examine sadly his dwindling circle of live friends; shockingly, for those who know De Wine's predilection for portraits of low-swinging cocks in the Tom of Finland vein, there isn't a penis in the bunch. Meanwhile, Presneill is showing himself in the annex across the hall; unshockingly for anyone who knows his predilection for that awful electric lime green, his works are swimming in the stuff.
Lastly, at Art for All (in a gallery, we think, once devoted to incarcerated youths), there are charmingly naif portraits in inkwash and Armando Ara's Surreal "homage" to dripping Dali, with Adam and God from Michelangelo's Creation of Man tossed into the soup. They're sweet vistas, really, with lovely greens and blues cutting swathes through stone mesas. And of course, we're suckers for mountains made out of benippled breasts.
Perhaps Peter Blake will start sending us announcements of his gallery openings again: we loved his just-ended "Geoffrey Krueger." Krueger's paintings are mild, big-vistaed landscapes with a towering beauty and elegance. Showing old frontage roads and grand trees, the oils are marvelously light yet sober. They're also universal: we were prepared to swear one showed the row of eucalyptus that lines an old road in Camarillo—and according to the gallery attendant, everyone who saw the piece was prepared to swear it depicted theirhometown. All views are strictly Orange County, she maintained. OC? Land of pink stucco? Impossible.
Santora Building, 207 N. Broadway, Santa Ana. Galleries are usually open Sat.-Sun., noon-4 p.m.; the "Geoffrey Krueger" exhibit is no longer running at Peter Blake Gallery, but we bet Blake would sell you some pictures anyway. (949) 376-9994.