Local Palette

Selected Works

Chris Williams, Dave Lawell,
and Adam Bork

Ayers Mansion
One-night exhibit

You're at a party -- a big, crazy party. A drum circle thumps away in the back yard while a couple of half-naked fire breathers perform in a frenzy of flames. Kegs are floating, people are dancing, dogs are attacking the food table. Go figure that in this setting you find some of the most stimulating artwork in town.

Chris Williams, Dave Lawell, and Adam Bork are three young and immensely talented artists, but they hardly ever exhibit, so this art show in the guise of a wild throw-down was a rare chance to see their work. And that's a shame because the work shown here was so potent and skillful, someone should have just turned the house into a permanent gallery right then and there.

Perhaps they could call it the Gallery of Discontent, because each artist appears to be dealing with some fairly disquieting issues. Chris Williams' paintings take on a faintly chilling tone -- his generally realistic images are topped with an essence of Twilight Zone. In one, a naked woman, standing sideways, slouches and appears distant and forlorn. A relatively normal portrait, until you notice that one of her eyes is missing and crab claws dangle where her hands should be. Williams uses gradated colors and subtle lighting so effectively that his figures appear to come to life if you stare at them long enough.

Adam Bork's use of disturbing imagery in his immense sculpted wall hangings isn't quite as subtle as Williams'. One particularly alarming piece is made of a big block of blue, sponge-like material, with a dozen human heads trying to penetrate the webby surface from behind; it looks like they're escaping a mushy hell.

Dave Lawell uses Jesus Himself as the main figure in his sculptures. Lawell's beautiful, iconographic shrines, made of metal, iron, vegetable steamers, candles, roses, and whatnot, are a serene reprieve from the frenzy of Bork and Williams.

These artists possess obvious skill and distinctive creativity, and while I love "discoveries" like this in unexpected places, I hope to see their work reach the general art public soon.

The Headless Series

Jürgen Kuschnik

through December 31
Pro-Jex Gallery

After the Wedding by Jurgen Kuschnik
Many photographers rely on people's faces -- with their infinite stylistic possibilities -- to compose a photo's fundamental design and mood. Not L.A. photographer Jürgen Kuschnik, at least not in his "Headless Series."

"As people, we all do simple tasks," Kuschnik says. "And sometimes, we don't use our heads." He thought it would be interesting to focus on people's body language, so in these photos, you'll find people in ordinary, simple poses -- a beachcomber strolling through the tide, a guy kicked back in a chair -- but they're all seen from the neck down, like when you accidentally aim your camera too low. But Kuschnik's faceless aim is deliberate, and it adds to the feeling that the person in the photo could be anybody, perhaps even you.

Although the lack of heads throughout Kuschnik's photographs is striking, it's the artist's unusual use of Polaroid SX-70 film that makes the pieces really intriguing. Shortly after taking a photo, Kuschnik uses a hand-held, spoon-shaped tool to manipulate the photo's emulsion, blurring the image somewhat. Then he takes a picture of the image and enlarges it, giving it an even more blurry and grainy effect. In the end, the photo looks less like a photo than a hazy, dreamy-looking canvas, with a distinct resemblance to an Impressionist painting.

Alas, Kuschnik's technique is close to extinction. "This is an era that will soon be over," he notes. Polaroid plans to stop making the somewhat archaic SX-70 film. Yet another tool going the way of the 8-track tape. -- Cari Marshall

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