Once again Bergamot Art Station has come through for me. Just as my brain was beginning to boil in the heat, a refreshing jolt of art gave me cool relief. Jun Balloon

A number of galleries have moved from the D to the B building including Lora Schlesinger and Skidmore Contemporary Art. I think both show better in these new spaces.

I found a surprising discovery at Skidmore. Looking up I was immediately attracted to a group of brightly decorated balloons, and I wondered how they were attached to the wall. I was astounded to be told that they were actually glazed ceramic.

The artist is Nina Jun, a Cal State Long Beach grad, who’s had more than a dozen solo exhibitions and numerous group shows since receiving her MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in sculpture in 2001. The contrast between a lighter-than-air balloon and the solidity of a ceramic object was intriguing and I wanted to know more.

One day a Mylar balloon slipped out of her hand and as it floated up into the sky, she thought of how happy it had made her and how sad she was to lose it. She began contemplating the expansive nature of the universe as it disappeared.

So she recreated the balloon, a transient object, into something solid and permanent. She uses a plaster mold on an inflated Mylar balloon to shape these cheery little objects decorating them in patterns that symbolize galaxies and constellations.

They are sweet little art objects and they’ll brighten up your day.

Details at http://skidmorecontemporaryart.com


Black, white and sepia

Lora Schlesinger has an intriguing mostly black and white and sepia exhibition, featuring Lawrence Gipe and Robin Cole Smith.

Smith is an emerging artist with a flare for depicting the natural world. Her MFA degree was in drawing, which she utilizes to capture both the specific and the ethereal. In her exhibition “Afterglow,” she uses charcoal, graphite, mixed media on paper and on panels, and to my eye there is a JMW Turner-esque quality to her work. Clouds are rendered realistically while moody and expressive, flower stalks with diaphanous fluff look like they’re ready to float away on the breeze. These images are both realistic and impressionistic.

Lawrence Gipe is almost the polar opposite, an experienced artist whose installation “Where We Were and How We Got There,” is a 60-foot long series of drawings on paper in multiple panels, part of a work-in-progress done in the social realistic style.

Inspired by the Apocalypse tapestry in Angers, France, this work is based on Gipe’s archive of propaganda tracts, magazine and photo journals from the 1930s through the 1970s, related to ideological imagery depicting modern technology and industrial landscapes. Capitalism and nostalgia blend in images of airplanes, trains, cars, industrialized landscapes and factory chimneys, dystopian dreams of tunnels, mining holes and iron scaffolding. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s impressive.

The installation is paired with a series of Gipe’s small oil paintings called “Nocturne” which feel like the antidote to his hyper-real historical imagery, perhaps seeking peace in an idealized vision of the urban landscape.

More info here http://loraschlesinger.com


Giant potholders

There’s a whimsical display of giant potholders on view at Sloan Projects in association with Craig Krull Gallery, a month-long project ending on August 29 with artist Robbie Cavolina using the gallery as a studio to create these enormous everyday, home-spun objects.

A Grammy Award-winning art director for his album art work with singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, Cavolina has also made documentary films, including “Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer.”

Picture 8 by 8 foot squares of checkerboard woven deep blues and bright reds. “The Potholder Show” was intended to showcase the transformative power of scale, along the lines of Claes Oldenberg’s giant works, such as the binoculars on the Google building, and the “Knife Ship” in the MOCA Plaza in downtown LA.

I’m not sure what it all means, but it’s fun to look at. Check it out here https://www.facebook.com/sloanprojects


American masters: the silver print

Cue Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better,” because that’s the sentiment that comes to mind every time I visit the Peter Fetterman Gallery.

Currently on view is a group show of silver prints, black and white images by a number of legendary photographers who were masters of the darkroom.

Artists I was not familiar with include Jeffrey Conley, whose beautiful winter images were most welcome during this hot summer. A stunning piece, called “Night Snow” is a fantasy wonderland, featuring snow falling on the bare limbs of a tree, looking like little globe lamps lighting it up in the dark.

Don Worth’s extreme close ups of cacti and the veins of tropical leaves left me breathless with wonder at the amazing symmetry and geometry of the plant world. And his “Grass and Water” could have been a line drawing by an Old Master. He was an assistant to Ansel Adams and like Adams, his work is based in the natural world but displays an entirely original vision.

Lastly, Jerry Uelsmann is considered the 20th Century’s pioneer of photomontage. His work can be defined as surreal, not in the manner of Dalis, but also based on the natural world. All the photos on Fetterman’s wall feel mystical, the meanings of which you can let your imagination complete.

For gallery hours, visit http://www.peterfetterman.com/exhibitions/american-masters.

Art. It’s good for the soul. Go see some.

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various publications.

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