Just opened at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood are four exhibitions that funnel a lot of artistic intensity into one location.
The annual fundraiser "Abracadabra" is an exhibition of works donated by local artists. Ticket buyers who attend a drawing on Thursday, February 21 — the exhibition's closing night — will get to select and keep a favorite work from the wall. The first ticket holder chosen randomly gets his or her pick of the entire exhibition. The next in line gets first choice of the remaining works, and so on, until all works go home with collectors. For every ticket sold, there is a piece for the taking.
More than 100 works are installed on the walls, and if anyone wants to take the pulse of the local art scene, this is a great opportunity to do so. These types of events are popular strategies used by nonprofits to raise funds. Artists, however, are often inundated with requests to donate ten or more works per year to such causes. The Art and Culture Center, though, recognizes the generosity of all its donor artists by exhibiting their works for a full month (not merely an evening or weekend) and by giving an annual membership to each artist. The productive relationships and warm feelings flowing back and forth between the Art and Culture Center and the artists is evident in the quality of the work at "Abracadabra." Artists forked over good stuff — not just throwaway pieces.
Curator Jane Hart started "Abracadabra" six years ago, and participation is by invitation, but Hart says, "Often I discover amazing new artists at 'Abracadabra' because another artist initially recommends them to participate."
Based on the variety of hand-drawn works contributed, drawing is alive and well. Felice Grodin's three-part work is made of layers of cut-and-pasted technical ledger papers with symmetrical shapes resembling Rorschach ink blots. Gonzalo Fuenmayor and Lou Anne Colodny show works that feature figures and objects isolated on black and white backgrounds, respectively. Virginia Fifield's empathetic and expert drawing of a small dog being groomed exudes vulnerability.
Other media are here too. Words are subjects for Rosemarie Chiarlone and her poet collaborator Susan Wiener, who have donated a cut paper piece that spells out latent sensuality. Kerry Phillips' primly crocheted merde (shit, in French) is installed on the wall ever so lightly with pins. Minimalist works that apply a human touch to geometric forms are present in a mini-monumental cardboard assemblage by Babette Hershberger. Photography and digital imaging runs the gamut from staged conceptual works to color-based abstraction. A multimedia work by Miami's TM Sisters is viewed on a wall-mounted monitor, and several sculpture works are available as well.
Many of the donated works are decidedly not small. Henning Haupt's bold charcoal and paint work on paper is more than four feet tall, and just as big are Moira Holohan's mono-print triptych and Nina Surel's large digital image of herself inhabiting a fantasy persona. Other standouts: Leah Brown's intricate laser-cut paper work, Alex Trimino's knitted light piece, and Elisabeth Condon's landscape drawing on Mylar.
For budding collectors, "Abracadabra" is a baby step toward building a collection of original art. For old-hand collectors, "Abracadabra" represents a fantastic bargain. Admittedly, at $375 per, tickets might be out of reach for some people, but each ticket admits two people, and it's entirely possible that the value of the artwork you take home will exceed the value of the ticket. Last year, every ticket was sold.
Three other solo exhibitions of local artists are also on view. In a David Leroi show subtitled "Amusez La Galerie," he subverts the patriotic spirit of classic superhero comics . Faithful renderings from the heyday of Captain America and the Spirit are painted on large canvases and updated with new texts that borrow from the current Occupy movement, such as "Call my hedge fund advisor now!," which accompanies a scene in which a meteor is crashing to Earth. Other anticapitalist sentiments such as "In Greed We Trust" take a satirical stab at the military industrial complex.
Next up is "Matu Croney: Bravelion & the Class of 2000." You'd need an annotated reference guide to fully comprehend the subtexts and connections collaged by the artist in many formats. Croney's personal, political, and mystical images are alternately cut and pasted from magazines, arranged on the backs of canvases, or installed in small frames in an altar-like structure that is labeled "BABYLON" and also includes artists' palettes daubed with paint. The mash-up pantheon of characters includes Adam and Eve, R2-D2, Cherokee warriors, dinosaurs, the band Rage Against the Machine, and bejeweled horses. Youth and beauty set against apocalyptic landscapes seem to communicate a state of uncertainty, though it's all too hermetic to decipher. A messianic feeling pervades the scenes from Atlantis, the mushroom clouds, and the rainbows. The overload of symbolic imagery and supersaturated color induces the sensation of an intensive late-night image search on the internet and is equally rich and strange.
For the project room, artist Perry Pandrea conceived a work of installation composed of hundreds of squares of plexiglass hand-painted with figures of speech and colloquial expressions. These squares are suspended by colored threads from panels in the ceiling, and the overall impression is of being immersed in a transparent forest of Post-it notes, an environment of messages. Some of the phrases are judgmental, like "mind in the gutter," and others seem to convey the encouragement of self-help literature. The artist actively sought motivational language that contrasts Western aggression and competitiveness with Asian acceptance.