SAVE + MISBEHAVE: CalArts Get Free!

Along with the mild spike in sunshine this past few weeks, some of you may have noticed another influx in your area: college students, running free, wild, and naked in the streets. Spring break! Five days of release from the shackles of schooldom. Freedom. Monday, though, brought the party to an end, and students across the city are settling back in and setting their eyes on the home stretch. For Art and Photography/Media Graduate students at CalArts, though, the “home stretch” means one thing: running free, wild, naked in the streets. That’s right, folks—it’s time for the CalArts MFA Open Studios.
On Sunday, April 11th, from 2:00 to 7:00pm, more than 60 artists studying at the California Institute for the Arts will open their studios to the public. Each artist will be present and light refreshments will be provided—a great opportunity to hobnob with some of the city’s most promising creative minds. Or to just get some free food and look at cool stuff. It’s free of charge, free of pretense, clothing optional. Freedom!

By Helen Kearns

Please visit the website for directions and artist information. Reservations not required.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Festival, Film, Food & Drink, Galleries, Installation, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Painting, Performance, Personalities, Photography, Save + Misbehave, The Social Scene, Video Art No Comments »

SUNDAY FEATURE: Westward Ho: Exploring America’s Artistic Frontier

Watson-the-Shark2It’s not hard in this day and age to be disillusioned with the idea of America. Documentaries like Food, Inc., Religulous, and Sicko present ample evidence that we have veered a great distance from the America envisioned by our forefathers. Whether they be social, political, religious, or economic, my generation rarely sees beyond the fissures in our disintegrating national culture, and the art world is no exception. As an Art History major with a focus on 18th Century British and French art, I’m not likely to grab the car keys and rush myself to an American art exhibition. I was playing for team Euro-snob.  But after my visit to LACMA’s newest exhibit, American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915, I’m writing this article with my tail between my legs.

The exhibition’s 75 paintings universally express what it means to be an American, and how artists played a critical role in characterizing the American identity and experience. Wandering from room to room in LACMA’s American Stories, the viewer will observe the progression of American history through art, from the tense and politically charged pre-revolutionary era through the brink of World War I. The exhibit showcases art from a broad range of subject matter, including immigration, exploring new frontiers, industrialization, and family life, all subjects that were popular for American artists seeking to capture the sweeping changes that distinguished the fabric of our nation.

Some of the most revealing early American artists dared to dig beneath the young country’s façade and hint at the darker side of a culture tainted by slavery and violence. John Singleton Copley’sWatson & The Shark” (1778), recounting a young British merchant’s brush with death, is among the more dramatic, attention-grabbing works in the exhibition. The expert depiction of heightening tension, accelerating winds, and a mounting sense of disaster are reminiscent of history paintings of the Great Masters. Beyond the theatrical re-telling of Watson’s spectacular rescue from a shark attack, the painting symbolizes a small community, struggling through crisis to save one of its own. This sense of survival, possible only by the unity of the people, resonates throughout the cannon of American art and history.

Paintings of everyday life and familiar scenes of leisure bring intimacy to the exhibit’s portraits of early America. William McGregor Paxton’sThe Breakfast” (1911) uses a subject matter that appears frivolous to set a mood of loneliness and frustration. Paxton’s sense of humor is tempered by a strong adherence to academic technique that gives his painting a serious and significant tone. A wealthy woman sulks as her husband, unaware of her isolation, reads the morning paper—a symbol of his engagement with the outside world juxtaposed by the conflicting situation of his female companion. She is shielded from the outside world, not only by the drawn blinds and curtains of her breakfast nook, but by the impenetrable domestic sphere that society forced her to inhabit.

While I looked upon “The Breakfast,” two women behind me snickered as one of them did an impression of the aloof husband, “Oh honey. Why are you so upset? Don’t I give you everything you want with your maids and beautiful home?” I couldn’t help but snicker along with them. It was an experience we all could identify with in some way or another, whether it is because we are women, or American, or simply empathetic for a person who sometimes feels seen, but never heard.

Indeed, it was impossible to wander through American Stories without comparing the paintings to my own personal experience of being an American. Familiar scenes that transcend the confines of time, including John Lewis Krimmel’sFourth of July in Centre Square” (1812) and Lilly Martin Spencer’sYoung Husband: First Marketing” (1854), warm the heart with their familiar portrayals of urban daily life. Francis William Edmonds’sThe New Bonnet” (1858) and William Glacken’sThe Shoppers” (1907-08), make one chuckle at the predictable scene of the American woman’s affinity for shopping, while alluding to the rapid growth of mass world consumerism. It is through these strikingly recognizable narratives, most of which are presented with references to slavery, pre-suffragette sexism, and mass consumption, that we are able to further understand our controversial history and absorb the significance of the courageous and distinctive genre of American art.

So whether you’re sporting a “Freedom Isn’t Free” bumper-sticker on the back of your Ford pick-up or reading this article on your iPhone while in line for your cappuccino at Intelligentsia, this exhibition will unquestionably change and expand the way you think about our national art. It is with the highest esteem that I admit that American Stories did me proud.

-By Brittany Krasner

American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915 is on view at LACMA through May 23rd.  For more information on tickets and viewing hours, visit

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Portraiture’s Victorious Fight in the Modern Age

ingres38.JPGWhen most people think of portraiture, images of aristocracy adorned in their finest medieval robes atop a crackling grand fireplace in some remote European castle probably come to mind.  When I mention that I focused on 18th-19th Century portraiture in college, people look as if they’re about to fall asleep before I can finish the sentence.  But this past Saturday, I attended a lecture at Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum presented by John Klein, Associate Professor from Washington University in St. Louis, that reminded me of the magnetism and presence of portraits. In his lecture, “Matisse, Picasso and Beyond: How Portraiture Survived Modernism,” he examined the means by which the art of human representation prevailed through an era defined by its antipathy to historical convention.  Through the study of modernist masters like Picasso, Matisse and Giacometti, Klein arrives at a universal truth: human beings will always and forever be obsessed with themselves, others, and how others perceive them.

“Damn Portraits!” began Professor Klein, quoting Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres—an abrupt and honest exclamation that served as a perfect prelude to the difficult battle that portraiture was doomed to fight once the modern age descended on a timeless artistic tradition.  Ingres, like many artists of his time, despised portraiture.

He often complained that the overwhelming number of commissions from high society kept him from focusing on “more important” subject matter.  In the 19th Century, it seemed as if the only demographic that had an affinity for portraiture was the social elite.  When the 20th Century began, many creative figures decried the art form’s declining relevance.  Portraiture posed a series of difficult questions for the artist: How does one capture the complexity of human identity? How can an inner quality be expressed outwardly?  How can a still representation do justice to a personality trait that is defined by its movement? Modernism, says Klein, provided the platform that was so desperately needed: a movement that joined portraiture with the abstraction of the avant-garde.

grn_eyesThrough an array of examples, Klein revealed how artists like Picasso and Matisse were uninterested with the centrality of the sitter, which historically would have been fundamental.  In works like Girl with Green Eyes (1908), Matisse blended his sitters into a decorative pattern where no single component of the painting could dominate.  Picasso’s Gertrude Stein (1906), on the other hand, showcases both the artist and the sitter, serving as a visual statement of the height and legitimacy of both Stein’s and Picasso’s careers. Klein taught the audience that through the execution of her face, as was common with many of Picasso’s portraits, the artist imposed a mask-like quality that hardly resembled Stein’s genuine appearance. The primitivization of her face is a symbolic and telling mark of the beginning of an important aesthetic shift.

After the First World War, artists became increasingly cynical of humanistic values, and rapid advances in photographic technology threatened representational portraiture.  Expressive abstraction began to take hold, providing the artist with infinite ways to communicate power, status and legitimacy—and the line between art and vulgarity became harder to define.  Marcus Harvey’s Myra (1995) is an example of how modern portraiture could become a PR dream come true. Harvey’s portrait of Myra Hindley, a woman convicted of murdering multiple innocent child victims, is comprised of tiny flesh colored hands, hands meant to represent those of the children that she murdered.

180px-marcus-harvey-myraPortraiture’s many levels of expression, as in Myra, have the potential for endless symbolism and emotion.  I could feel the tension in the lecture hall when Myra came on screen, and I could see that the man next to me was trying to conceal his goose bumps.

Professor Klein’s lecture was most certainly a personal highlight of my many years of studying and appreciating portraiture. Regardless of one’s knowledge of art, he was able to communicate his subject with admirable passion and vigor.  Professor Klein carried the double-barreled theme of portraiture and its modernist survival from the turn of the 20th Century through the fall of Saddam Hussein. It was quite frankly one of the most fun Saturdays I’ve had in a while, and I don’t think I was alone.  The jam-packed lecture hall’s enthusiastic applause was proof enough that nobody was falling asleep before Klein could finish his sentences.

-By Brittany Krasner

The Norton Simon’s calendar of educational lectures will certainly expand your art related intellectual repertoire.  For more information on upcoming lectures, please visit their website.

Posted in Art, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, High Brow, Museums, Old School, Painting, Pasadena, Personalities, Photography No Comments »

Don’t Call Them The Fashion Police…

Kimberly Brooks had a great idea recently.  The local, Venice-based painter decided to look into the art that plays a role in our everyday lives and the people holding the cards behind it.  She looked beyond museum shows, beyond advertisements, and into the world of fashion that is so often considered less of an art form and more of a necessity.  The men and women working behind the scenes to make our world a touch more glamorous are artists who recognize that the necessity of fashion can be one of the more creative enterprises in our lives and it can be one that makes (or doesn’t make) the right impression.

In her latest series of paintings, called “The Stylist Project”, Kimberly Brooks scoured the world of stylists, costume designers, and Creative Directors to delve deeper into the minds of who exactly is dressing our most photographed celebrities and our most watched characters in TV and film.  She painted Vogue’s Creative Director Grace Coddington and Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant in their most comfortable settings (albeit in their most fabulous clothes).  She painted Elizabeth Stewart, a stylist for the New York Times Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar, with a gorgeous and colorful palette and she captured the nervy and frazzled essence that is Rachel Zoe.

We got a chance to sit down with Brooks to discuss just what went into “The Stylist Project” and the upcoming show at Taylor de Cordoba gallery in Culver City.  We learned very quickly that stylist is a pretty loose term to us amateurs, but in the business, a stylist can be anyone who fashions a photo shoot (often-times called a Creative Director) to someone who styles a celebrity for a red carpet event.  Brooks’ colors and masterful way with a paintbrush allows us into this inner sanctum of fashion via the world of art – it’s almost as if we know them just by looking at these paintings.

Check out our video interview and go say hi to your new friends (the stylists, of course) at the opening reception at Taylor de Cordoba gallery on Saturday evening (February 27).  The show runs through April 3, 2010.  For more information, please click here or call (310) 559-9156.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Culver City, Exhibitions, Fashion, Galleries, Painting, Personalities, The Social Scene No Comments »

Big Kisses, Bird Calls, and Puppy Dogs


Pablo Uribe, Atardecer, 2008 (Dusk) – video still

This year, the Los Angeles Art Show made its home at Los Angeles Convention Center.  This venue change provided more space for gallery booths that ranged from contemporary works such as the Wall Project’s Shepard Fairey and Thierry Noir painted walls to landscapes galore — and even more space for project-based installations. The Vox Humana on-site art performance presented street artists Mear One, Kofie, Retna, and El Mac who showed off their talents over the length of the fair on large-scale canvases.  And speaking of more room, I wondered how Sidestreet Projects got one of their woodworking workshop buses into the fair.  These school buses are outfitted with project stations for elementary school children so they can make a nuts and bolts washer sandwich and one FUNdred dollar bills, which I am sure we all could use more of these days.

One of my favorite pieces of the art fair was Pablo Uribe’s video, Atardecer (2008), which screened in a makeshift dark room in the Guest Country program booth’s rear.  While looking at the other works from the 34° 53’ 0” S – 56° 10’ 0” W show, I heard animals sounds curiously mix with the ambient art fair noise.  Upon stepping into the screening area, there was a video of an older man standing before a black background looking as if he were about to perform a gorgeous aria.  Instead of sweet notes pouring out of his mouth, the sound of a dog’s bark came out.  And then the cooing of a bird!  The actor was imitating the sounds of native rain forest animals.

Willy Rojas’ photographs at Barcelona’s Villa del Arte booth depicted miniature figurines interacting

Willy Rojas, Egg

Willy Rojas, Egg

with their food-based environment.  Tiny people ski down slopes of salt or a wedge of hard cheese.  A man broke the shell of an egg with his sledgehammer while a couple ice skates on an orange hued soup.

Speaking of food, the Timothy Yarger Gallery presented Jean Wells’ The Giant Kiss quite literally.  The huge chocolate-scented foil wrapped sculpture demanded a tongue-in-cheek presence while paying homage to Claes Oldenburg’s shop.

The Rebecca Hossack Gallery held quite a few treats, including a gorgeous papel picado-esque paper cutting in the shape of a peacock (Ian Penney), a piece of toast with an image of Shakespeare burnt onto it à la the Virgen de Guadalupe (Maria Morrow), and also Phil Shaw’s photographs of brightly colored bookshelves, which was a voyeur’s delight to snoop the book titles.

And on my way out, I spotted three Jeff Koon’s puppy vases filled with fresh flowers guarding Jean Dubuffet’s Tapis at the Jane Kahan Gallery.  In my mind, they were the guardians of the LA Art Show — a much friendlier and kitsch version of Cerberus.

Fine Arts LA Jeff Koons puppy vase

Posted in Books, Bring Your Flask, Contemporary Art, Downtown, Festival, Galleries, Installation, Mixed media, Painting, Performance, Photography, Video Art No Comments »

Pop Art For A New Generation

artwork_images_140033_500092_kadir-lopezWhat does pop culture mean to you? The first thing anyone might think is Andy Warhol – largely considered the father of pop art – and his Marilyn Monroe, Campbell’s soup, and Mickey Mouse prints.  On now through February 20 at the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot Station is your chance to redefine pop art for our generation.  Large-scale, colorful prints by two artists, Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez are full of color, texture, and familiar faces and things.

Mikel Alatza’s works range from a skull with the Mastercard logo to a clowned, vibrant, contorted painting of Julia Roberts.  Angelina Jolie has been given fire engine red hair and a bright red clown nose next to Paris Hilton whose tan looks even more fiercely dangerous than usual.

Kadir Lopez takes a more muted and almost vintage approach to the pop art world.  His Shell print features a river and skyline fitted within a Shell gasoline sign while his Wrigley’s piece has a distinctly political, textural feel.

Andy Warhol had his finger on the pulse of popular culture in the 70s (we still use the phrase he coined “fifteen minutes of fame” with great frequency) and perhaps its time we find an artist who knows how to transform our current pop culture icons into wild, vivacious prints that speak to us today.  Are you team Alatza, team Lopez, or both?

Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez’ exhibits will be up at William Turner Gallery through February 20.  Please call (310) 453-0909 or click here.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, High Brow, Installation, Low Brow, Painting, Personalities, Santa Monica No Comments »

Turning Your Holiday Houseguests into Local Art Lovers

We imagine that a great many of you, dear readers, have guests in town for the holidays.  If you’re lucky enough to have them staying at your house, you’ll appreciate this little listing of places to send them so that they can experience all the art and culture that LA has to offer. (Remind them that Woody Allen was wrong when he said it was only frozen yogurt and right turns on red…)

Bergamot Station

A healthy sized collection of art galleries in Santa Monica, Bergamot Station does actually have something for every walk of life.  Your sister-in-law prefers installations while your uncle is a photography nut? Send them west of the 405 to this once dilapidated train station for a day filled with some of LA’s most innovative galleries.  They’ve even got a café, salon, and vintage clothing shop on site, so let them know they could be occupied for hours!

Bergamot Station is located at 2525 Michigan Ave in Santa Monica.  Please call (310) 828-4001 or click here for more information.


Annenberg Space for Photography

Your guests will surely appreciate a jaunt to Annenberg Space for Photography’s latest exhibit: SPORT: Iooss and Leifer.  Read our take on it here.  It’s a spectacular collection that chronicles the recent history of sports including inspiring snaps of Serena Williams and Mohammad Ali.  They have no excuse to come back before grabbing a bite at the little café downstairs and then maybe catching a movie across the street at the Century City shopping center – drop a hint about your favorite shops in the mall.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is located at 2000 Avenue of the Stars #10 in Century City.  Call (213) 403-3000 for more information or click here.


Walt Disney Concert Hall

If you’ve got guests over New Year’s Eve, grab a couple seats to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy take advantage of the unparalleled acoustics at Disney Hall.  There’s a show at 7:00pm and one at 10:30pm – we’d recommend a quick bite either before or after the performance at Kendall’s Brasserie across the street at the Dorothy Chandler to help ring in the New Year!

Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Ave. in Downtown LA.  Please call (323) 850-2000 or click here for more information.

fine arts la getty villa malibu

Getty Villa in Malibu

There is no better place to remind your guests that you live in paradise than the Getty Villa in Malibu.  It’s free to view the ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiques and objets d’art, you’ve just got to make a reservation beforehand for parking.  On view now at the Villa is an exhibition called “Reconstructing Identity: A Statue of a God from Dresden.” Once you’ve gotten your fill of the gorgeous views and Roman-inspired architecture, head a bit farther down PCH to Cross Creek Road, where you’ll find Taverna Tony’s (delicious Greek food) and some dangerous shopping.

The Getty Villa is located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.  Please call (310) 440-7300 or click here for more information.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Bring Your Flask, Contemporary Art, Downtown, Exhibitions, Food & Drink, Galleries, High Brow, Jazz, Low Brow, Museums, Music, Painting, Photography, The Social Scene, West LA No Comments »

Indie Dreams at LeBasse Projects

We all dream in our own style – some of us have dreams of grandiose places, some have anxiety dreams about some upcoming event, and the lucky ones have kinky dreams.  It often takes more than just looking at someone to work out what their dreams might look like.  But, and I’m really generalizing here, I have a feeling that the two artists currently on view at LeBasse Projects in Culver City have got the wonderfully indie dreams of film favorites like, say, Ellen Page or Michael Cera down.

On one hand, Scott Belcastro’s exhibit, called “Chasing the Last Glimpse of Light,” is full of paintings (somewhat big, acrylic paintings) that show a sort of Where The Wild Things Are existence with fuzzy mountains, a red menacing sky, and a lone reindeer beneath the stars.  He has a simplistic painting style with colors that are more muted than vibrant – the paintings are ultimately a delicate view of the wild and twisted world we live in.

Then, there’s Linda Kim and her exhibit, “A Light Within.”  The two painters easily complement each other – her style has a similarly minimalist, yet dreamlike quality with animals making their way through the mist or sleeping beneath an intensely blue sky.  The immediate difference between those two is actually their use of color.  Where Kim employs color blocking techniques and a more diverse and concentrated use of hues, Belcastro seems to want you to wander through his world with a more fragile touch.  Kim also presents her work on little wood “houses” – which really make you wish you could crawl inside and lay down.  You’d probably have some pretty crazy dreams in there.

Scott Belcastro and Linda Kim’s works will be on display at LeBasse Projects through January 2010.  For more information, please call (310) 558-0200 or click here.

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Culver City, Exhibitions, Galleries, Painting, Save + Misbehave No Comments »

Portrait Day: Comtesse d’ Haussonville at the Norton Simon

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (French, 1780–1867), Comtesse d’Haussonville, dated 1845; Oil on canvas, 51 ⅞ x 36 ¼ inches (131.8 x 92); The Frick Collection, New York. Photo; Michael Bodycomb

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (French, 1780–1867), Comtesse d’Haussonville, dated 1845; Oil on canvas, 51 ⅞ x 36 ¼ inches (131.8 x 92); The Frick Collection, New York. Photo; Michael Bodycomb

School portraits.  You either loved ‘em or hated ‘em.  Mostly you love them now because they are a time-stamp of the then-you.  My silly senior photo was complete with red lipstick and black, thick bangs à la Louise Brooks.  Call it cliché or call it high school; once you discard those glasses, braces, and bad skin, portraits are a signifier of not only you, but also the world around you.  And who would have thought flannel shirts would have ever made their way back into school portraits nearly twenty years after Nirvana hit the airwaves…

The Norton Simon and The Frick Collection have a portrait they are dying to share with you.  And might I say, it’s not one of those awkward portraits of teenage yesteryear.  Instead, it’s a jewel of their collection– the Comtesse d’ Haussonville painted by none other than Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

The portrait of Louise-Albertine de Broglie, Comtesse d’Haussonville, depicts the young woman in her fashionable blue robe de petit diner standing before a fireplace and mirror.  Ingres’s treatment of  both her face and dress are expert as well as the way he manipulated the light and colors.

The face of the sitter, 27-year-old Princess de Broglie, is softly molded with a smooth, creamy complexion.  Eyes gaze contemplatively and calmly towards the viewer showing that she is “confident, thoughtful, and refined.” She was the daughter of the Duc de Broglie and the wife of Comte d’ Haussonville.

Her pose, an S-curve, harks back to ancient sculptures of deities and to canonical women’s portrait poses of the 19th century.  Her left hand cradled underneath her chin and her right arm resting across her waist forms an X-shape that invites the viewer to continue the compositional line downwards to admire the gorgeous and finely detailed drapery of her frock.  Her silk dress by itself is stunning with a multitude of delicate ruffles near the arms and pleats of the skirt.

The painting’s light comes from an unknown source.  It brushes down the Comtesse’s face, arms, and across her dress to form drapery of a caliber suited to ancient sculptors.  The cool light makes her golden jewelry glisten.

Furthermore, the colors are divine.  The entire painting is made up of a multitude of blues, from the rich, royal blue of the fireplace cover, the creamy color of her dress, to the dash of turquoise in her Cleopatra-style jewelry.  A shock of red hits the canvas in the form of a ribbon tied into her hair.

The furniture behind the Comtesse appears compressed and unusually positioned, although very luxurious.  Opera glasses and calling cards set upon the fireplace as well as  thrown away shawl on the chair next to her signals the beginning or, most likely, the end of an evening at the opera.

It is a sneak peek into the grandeur of Ingres – a master of painting.  Unlike your school photographer, Ingres is known for anatomical impossibilities that create a stronger composition and aesthetic value.  No Photoshop to be seen, try to spot the things that your school photographer could never do.

Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville will close January 25, 2010.  For more information about the exhibition, please click here.

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Fly India With Carlos Ramos

There are some adults that harbor a very thorough Disney movie collection with no shame and out in the open for all to see.  They still cry in Bambi, applaud Mulan, and fantasize about being whisked away on a magic carpet ride with Aladdin.  Others are a little more subtle about their love of animated creatures and tend to look for the Disney satisfaction in other arenas – thank God for Wall-E and Up or we’d be fuzzy-animal starved!

Carlos Ramos may be our latest artistic (and adult-proof) source of colorful, rich, animated satisfaction. His new show India at Corey Helford Gallery is full of bright, wild paintings of characters and creatures any Disney-phile would appreciate.  It’s almost as if you can close your eyes and imagine the flamboyant voice-overs.  There are some paintings with a blue, meaningful tone and others with a red, adventurous theme that together allow you to create your own narrative.  He sets the stage with paintings like Shahjahanabad and introduces characters like the wily temptress in Raqs Baladi or the King atop his elephant in The Coronation of Edward VII.

The show ends September 2 though, so I’d head to Culver City pretty soon.  You may want to scope out a Blockbuster (for your Aladdin fix), an Indian restaurant nearby (to satiate your taste and aural senses), and a jewelry shop to pick up some bangles or even a bindi – you can keep them with your top secret Disney collection.

Carlos Ramos’ India is at Corey Helford Gallery and closes September 2, 2009.  For more information, please call (310) 287-2340 or click here.

Posted in Contemporary Art, Culver City, Exhibitions, Galleries, Painting No Comments »