San Diego

San Diego

Various Venues, San Diego

At La Jolla’s Jefferson Gallery is a dramatic two-man show of paintings and drawings by former San Diegan (he now lives in San Bruno) Fred Holle and oils and sculptures by Sheldon Kirby. There is a broad gulf between the large and little works of Holle. His black-and-white and pastel drawings are sensitive, semi-classical, delicate figure studies in which the artist proves himself a master draftsman. His recent oils, on the other hand, are as violent in aspect as the sketches are gentle. Curiously elusive—they are deliberately incomplete—these are striking portraits, dark, moody and finely-wrought, of mysterious, hideous human forms that in atmosphere are vaguely reminiscent of Goya’s last paintings.

Sheldon Kirby is represented by his “Talisman” series of more-or-less Expressionistic oils and about eight vigorous little abstract bronze sculptures, two of which are partially encased in plastic. The Talisman series began with a sketch and grew into a fully-developed variation on the Phoenix theme, which Kirby makes a medallion containing a figure with an agonized human head and a bird’s wing and torso. This symbol is presented in different positions, colors and numbers; sometimes there are two or three discs in a picture. Variety comes through canvas size, subject posturing, spatial placement and color gradations and juxtapositions. Ranging from painterly to sketchy, the canvases are clone with white glue and rather thin pigments in subtle surface textures. Most of their colors are moody and muted—black, blue, grey, ochre—but one, a black and red and yellow talisman within a talisman, stands out vividly and carries spectacularly.

Kirby’s little sculptures are spiky, thorny, superbly textured and subtly patinaed structures based on plant, animal, insect and fish forms that make a delightful series. They are curious creatures, but not at all menacing (with such titles as Big Skip, Grizzled Veteran and Steppenwolf’s Doggie they hardly could be).

There is indeed a light and fond heart lurking in the exhibit of varied works by France’s Pierre Sicard at Orr’s Gallery. Included in this colorful show are a number of striking, rather Impressionistic and vibrantly-hued flower paintings, and a series of small canvases of Venice and its gondolas, a selection of sensitive ink and wash drawings of European city scenes that are generally appealing and occasionally amusing, several sketchy oils of Paris, Los Angeles, New York and Athens; and a peppy group of etchings—done by the artist in the ’20s of Paris’s Jazz Age cabaret life. Most spectacular of the paintings are the recent floral ones.

Inaugurating the lovely new and fabulously functional 120 by 50-foot University of California, San Diego, Art Gallery designed by the La Jolla architectural firm of Moser and Drew on the university’s Camp Matthews site, is a bright show of oils and drawings by San Diegan Bruce McCracken. Fine of line and figurative, the ink drawings of places, people and still-lifes remind one of Picasso. They are freely done, and the simpler they are, the better. In the completely uncluttered ones there is clarity, sensitivity, rhythm and charm. When he adds details, matters are messed up a bit. McCracken’s canvases are robust, high-colored, semiabstract, wonderfully textured renderings of landscapes, buildings, flowers and figures. His brooding, monochromatic blue and green people paintings and his earlier blocky, Cubistic pictures of towns are merely decorative and slightly distressing, but his recent oils of things Italian and French and his floral still-lifes, while also decorative, are alive and vibrant.

The latest one-man exhibit at the La Jolla Museum of Art is the recent, and rather refreshing, oil and acrylic paintings and craypa drawings of Karen Kozlow, a San Diegan who in the past year has been emerging as a sort of Dr. Seuss of the art world. Her 18 canvases, all entitled Eudaemon, contain single cartoonish creatures that look remarkably human but often have plant-like limbs and features, while most of her 42 colorful drawings are details of over-sized, plant-like forms (mushrooms are popular) that take on some amusing aspects. Also in the show is a delightful, gigantic toy thing made of brightly colored bits of wool.

Using clear, brightly pastel and candy colors without texture or shading, and always outlining her forms, Miss Kozlow places her figures frontally against gay, solid-color backgrounds—blue, white, yellow, lavender, pink, chartreuse—in crazy poses and attitudes. They are upright or upside down and consist of heads, bodies and limbs or just heads with arms and legs doing wild dances of pure color and sensuous form. Some are mildly terrifying as they leap, stand on their heads or merely stare cross-eyed, but most are wonderfully hilarious, with positions and expressions that charm adults and children alike.

––Marilyn Hagberg