Art Stories: Personal Narrative at The Annenberg Community Beach House
By Genie Davis
Through June 4th
Story telling is an art, and at The Annenberg Community Beach House Gallery in Santa Monica through June 4th, the story is profoundly rich, the art both political and indeed personal. Curators Diane Williams and Sheli Silverio have assembled a thoroughly engaging exhibition in “Personal Narrative.” Drawing together artists with diverse backgrounds in regard to both immigration and gender identity, the show features the works of Mardi De Veuve Alexis, Susan Amorde, Terry Arena, Chenhung Chen, Rick Dallago, Bibi Davidson, Dwora Fried, JJ L’heureux, Tom Lasley, Erika Lizee, Randi Matushevitz, Malka Nedivi, Robert Nelson, Linda Sue Price, Kristine Schomaker, Sheli Silverio, Robert Soffian, Diane Williams.
Naturally, in today’s political climate, many of the works touch on what it means to be a Los Angeles-based artist working in an environment that is fraught with the divisiveness and fear brought about by the 2016 presidential election. But along with politics, the show covers a wide range of personal exploration, mediums, and forms. Perhaps the overriding theme of the show is resilience: in the face of current politics, in struggles for acceptance, in a wonderful rejection of “just fitting in,” these artists have created powerful works that pull viewers into intense individual worlds.
Bibi Davidson’s signature doppelganger, the girl in red, beckons powerfully in her large scale “Come.” Davidson’s unique style and vibrant color palette is immediately accessible, bold, intense. There are no apologies here: Davidson demands attention. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Davidson creates a world that features recurring characters, witty and humorous narratives, and glimpses of the twinned worlds of childhood wonder and adult understanding.
Chenhung Chen works with wire, found electrical components, and computer parts. She fuses these technological elements into something that feels alive and fluid. Every element of her piece here crackles with energy, it is alive, insectoid, a strange sea creature. Chen says her goal is to understand and/or contrast objects’ function.
Dwora Fried’s “Eva Hesse and Me” is beautifully evocative mixed media boxed diorama. Fried creates her own intense worlds in these small, contained sculptures; Hesse, a Jewish German-born American sculptor, was known for her original work in materials such as latex, fiberglass, and plastics, many of which have decayed over time. Fried preserves her spirit. Working with tiny figures and photographs to create perfectly detailed worlds inside glass-topped wood boxes, Fried suggests rather blatantly presents her narrative.
Robert Nelson’s work here is pop art writ large, intense colors that illuminate a classical figure with its heart not on its sleeve but in the air.
Linda Sue Price makes neon art that is all motion, wavering shapes that are wonderfully female, that lean together like a group of old friends. The figures are positioned in front of an image of a house, the house itself and the neon are both enclosed in a glass case, adding to an almost reverential feel for this work. Bending her own tubing, Price shapes fresh and captivating neon in soft and curved forms.
Malka Nedivi’s “Lady Standing” evokes Modigliani while being intensely original, a slender figure with a poignant, questioning gaze. A painter, sculptor, and collage artist, Nedivi tells fierce and charming stories, including a series that paid homage to her mother.
Terry Arena’s perfect, wistful flowers are a black and white study in detail and precision, realer than the real thing, a tribute to nature.
Susan Amorde has created a sculpture that seems pure pain, the baggage the sculpted female figure carries is literally and figuratively weighing her down and filling her with painful distress.
Randi Matushevitz had shaped a layered, dark work that features thin pale figures in the foreground. So much energy here, and a delicacy that reminds the viewer of fragile ancient relics, time travel, and the importance of detail.
Kristine Schomaker’s work is a re-creation, a rebirth of other artworks, a new take on the subjects of body image, the female, permanence/impermanence. From her “Losing Weight” project, Kristine has shredded her ‘skinny’ photos capturing the ghostly remnants in ‘Bell’ jars as if to preserve or contain them. Was this an act of defiance or release?
Mardi de Veuve Alexis offers a ghostly, abstract and haunting mono-chromatic image. She uses patterns and textures which she explains evolved from an emotional response. Layered and somehow liquid, this work is stunningly real.
Equally compelling are works by Rick Dallago, JJ L’heureux, Tom Lasley, the swirling and stunningly intense Erika Lizee, Robert Soffian, and curators Williams and Silverio.
Each of the artists’ participating here has a story to tell: both visually and viscerally. This is a show that collectively and individually draws viewers into the narrative process where a picture – or a sculpture – or a photograph – is indeed worth a 1,000 words.