LA WEEKLY Review of Plainer Show

March 2006

Given its fabulous and multifarious terrains and climates, California has inspired more than its share of landscape-oriented art. Back a century, British-born William Lees Judson cranked out a virtual pictorial record of our meadows, mountains and deserts in a sensitive, agreeable quasi-impressionist manner. Not especially flashy or virtuosic, Judson, founder of USC’s School of Fine Arts, had a knack for letting space and nature speak for themselves through his brush. His landscapes, on view at the Torrance Art Museum, are not simply seen, but sensed. The same is true — in far different ways, of course — of the artists in another exhibit at the museum: “Plainer,” an eclectic grouping of contemporary Angelenos who mediate between the effects of nature and those of civilization. Whether photographing, painting, drawing, sculpting or installing, the 15 artists conflate catastrophe, ecstasy, banality and poetry in sometimes witty, sometimes gloomy, sometimes urgent reaction to what they see around them. We live in a pretty scary place, they seem to agree, and the only thing more terrifying than the rawness of nature is our encroachment upon it. Including such droll and dramatic picturemakers as Karen Carson, Portia Hein, Kaucyila Brooke, Lucas Reiner, Cynthia Hooper, Andre Yi, Susan Logoreci, Justin Moore and Constance Mallinson, “Plainer” reminds us that our air isn’t so plain anymore. Open Tues.-Sat., noon-6 p.m.; thru March 11. (Peter Frank)