Familiar favorites: Once more, with feeling

Big and bold: Tom Downing's "Red Twelve" (1965), in the "Viewing Rm." show.
Big and bold: Tom Downing's "Red Twelve" (1965), in the "Viewing Rm." show. (Tom Downing; Hemphill Fine Arts)
By Jessica Dawson
Friday, January 28, 2011

What, the gallerists have ESP or something?

The day comes for me to sign off - yep, this is my last Galleries column - and what do the dealers do? They trot out exhibitions looking suspiciously like stills from "Jessica Dawson: This Is Your Life."

Sam Gilliam! I never loved you enough. Now Hemphill has guilted me into reconsidering.

Simon Gouverneur! I never understood what the fuss was about. And I still don't.

Graham Caldwell! Still working in glass, but now breaking it intentionally . . .

And the list goes on. Whether a group, two-person or solo show, almost every exhibition in the city's top galleries stars artists I've reviewed once, twice or possibly many more times.

All this could mean one of three things: 1. The gallerists do indeed possess psychic abilities and planned their schedules accordingly. 2. It's January - the August of winter - and retreads are no-brainers when things get slow. 3. I've been doing this for a very long time.

The trip down memory lane begins at Irvine Contemporary's "Saturnalia." A fancy name for a standard-issue group show, "Saturnalia" collects seven gallery artists' latest efforts. If they're to be read, as director Martin Irvine suggested, as auguries of what's to come, put my money on the cliche of "the more things change."

Melissa Ichiuji, whose suggestive and masochistic sculptures of women made from pantyhose filled with fabric (and other stuff) intrigued me a few years back, returns with iterations on a theme. In her latest efforts, she's taken thrift-store tchotchkes - the schlockiest of bird and pig ceramics - and cocooned them in . . . stockings and fabric. Now the beasties have breasts and act as creepy and naughty as the girls do.

As for the others: The duo of Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick are still producing neo-Bruegel, quasi-Jules Verne retro-futurist scenes presented in exaggerated horizontal formats. Teo Gonzalez is still working through his obsessive-compulsive issues by painting endless tiny dots on panels. Et cetera.

Newish to me, and interesting: Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi's pair of acrylic paintings on Mylar that mix Persian miniature painting traditions with contemporary themes playing against a backdrop of Western-style abstraction. I'll leave it to the next Galleries columnist to tackle her.

George Hemphill, our days of greeting with gritted teeth have ended.

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