I’m easily overwhelmed by the visions and the emotions evoked by art. I’m blessed to have Bergamot Art Station in my neighborhood whenever I need a fix; and the four galleries I limited myself to this week each had a different impact on me.

At Lora Schlesinger Gallery, the first solo show by 23-year-old Delfin Finley—already nearly sold-out after opening on July 22—will take your breath away. Under the exhibition title, “Some Things Never Change,” these paintings are tremendously expressive, hyper-realistic portraits that reveal their subjects’ inner lives in reaction to their outer reality.

Powerful is an understatement. Several major collectors have already swooped up a number of these gripping portraits.

Rappers, pro-skateboarders, friends from his South L.A. neighborhood, his father and others are portrayed here; all have had faced the reality of racism. The most chilling image is of a young man sitting under a noose; from a distance it looks three-dimensional and the shadow all too real.

Finley’s father, Ron Finley, now identified as “the Gangsta Gardener” (TED Talk—“grow some s**t”) is portrayed darkly lit and barefoot with a shovel in his hand. It’s a profound realization of his evolution from fashion designer to spokesman for feeding the inner city.

Delfin Finley has a brilliant future as an artist. Visit Lora Schlesinger Gallery at Bergamot Art Station, Tuesdays through Saturdays till 5:30 p.m through August 26.

http://www.loraschlesinger.com

SEBASTIAO SALGADO’S CONSCIENCE

There is no denying that Sebastiao Salgado is a photographic genius and master of the form.

Peter Fetterman Gallery has a heart-stopping array of his black and white images, from Brazil’s Gold Mines and forest villages to the oil fields of Kuwait and elsewhere around the globe. He depicts humanity in some of the most despairing circumstances and finds the beauty, the awe and the respect he feels for the people who engage in backbreaking labor.

One image looks like a line drawing; native women in a Brazilian forest village, using the “lipstick” plant to color their bodies. They are set against starkly contrasting lines of palm fronds behind them and beneath their feet. It’s an amazing trick of the eye.

Then there is the Hieronymous Bosch-like image of hundreds of workers, tiny like ants, in long lines climbing down a ladder into a pit. It’s staggering.

He captures the essential moment in any scene he photographs. Photos are on view through September 2 at Peter Fetterman Gallery. http://www.peterfetterman.com

BEHEADED

Now a little levity is in order, and that’s where the amusing group show “Beheaded” at Richard Heller Gallery comes in. There are heads painted, sculpted, constructed, eyes bulging and waifish, monstrous and biomorphic, heads on canvas, on paper, on walls, on shelves, made of paint, glass, clay and plexiglass.

One standout for me is Neil Farber’s Dracula Tree, which, before I saw the title, I took to be a terrific commentary on the intelligence of nature, with tiny heads filling the canopy like little dots, and a brain in the middle of it all. And Hideaki Kawashima’s anime-like cartoonish girls with big eyes and flowing hair look innocent, naïve and yet enticing.


The works are on view through August 5 at Richard Heller Gallery. http://richardhellergallery.com

CRAIG KRULL IS ALWAYS A WINNER

You’ll never go wrong stepping into the Craig Krull Gallery.

Presently he’s showing some exceptionally vibrant pieces by Swiss-born Chrissy Angliker, whose acrylic paint drips through the beach scenes she depicts, with wisps of color suggesting a crowded summer’s day in the sand and lending the works a pulsing sense of energy.

Ann Lofquist’s landscape paintings of our coastline and freeways are the complete opposite: quiet, meditative, calming. Classic.

And finally, Jenny Okun’s wonderful collaged photo images of downtown Los Angeles signs could not be more dynamic and attractive. Vintage neon theatre and architectural signs, the Rosslyn, the Eastern building, Orpheum and Los Angeles theatres are photographed, rearranged and collaged together into a single archival pigment print, helping us to appreciate the urban landscape.

Visit Craig Krull Gallery through August 19.  www.craigkrullgallery.com

RUSKIN’S RAINBOW BRIDGE

Remember the show Topper from the early days of TV? An uptight banker (Leo G. Carroll) lives in a house with two ghosts that only he can see. Intentionally or otherwise, Ron Nelson’s new comedy, “The Rainbow Bridge” at The Ruskin Group Theatre, evokes the same kind of comedy situations.


The title refers to a poem that often graces the walls of veterinary offices, meant to a comfort people who must put their pets down.

Jerry must euthanize the dog left with him after his sister shot herself and his mother slipped in her blood and died. Jerry reads the somewhat sappy poem aloud to send the dog off;  somehow that conjures up the ghosts of Mom and Sis, but only Jerry can see and talk to them. Awkward humorous moments ensue.

A whole lot of bad family dynamics, some dominatrix veterinary action, a plot to kill off mom’s lifelong rival in love, rapid scene changes, a strong performance from comedic lead actor Paul Schackman and Jaimi Paige as the oversexed vet make this romp an antidote to the news headlines that greet us each morning.

Enjoy a light-hearted guffaw at Ruskin Group Theatre, located at Santa Monica Airport, where parking is free, tickets are affordable and the laughs are plentiful. http://www.ruskingrouptheatre.com

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications. 

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