A work by Laerke Lauta.
Painting Fences @ Taylor Library
Painting Fences, a new and intricate exhibition by the long-absent Allan Morrow, takes a mundane concept—fences—and frames it as an abstract conversation about the American dream, gentrification, wildfires and other local issues. Taken from his experiences during his 20-plus-year absence from San Diego's art scene, Morrow uses photographs, paint and bits of bass and balsa wood to re-imagine the streets he often drove for work. These flat, 3-D constructions are deceptively simple in design yet unmistakably detailed. Though housed under glass frames, the mixed-media pieces—with miniature picket or chain-link fences and textured paint emulating asphalt—beg to be touched. Morrow's implicit commentary on life in San Diego ranges in size and media, including conceptual drawings and watercolors alongside his final pieces. Best known in the 1970s and 1980s for abstract landscape paintings, Morrow continues to evoke the scenery of Little Italy and Downtown, alongside emotional pieces depicting the 2007 wildfires. The show runs through June 19 at the Taylor Library in Pacific Beach (4275 Cass St.). www.sandiego.gov (search for “visual arts program”).
—Lorena Nava Ruggero
Only in Your Fondest Dreams @ Subtext Gallery
A gigantic statue modeled on a vinyl toy, surely the star of the show, greets you as soon as you step through the door of Subtext Gallery. Cool! you think. On one shelf sit more of artist Brian Flynn's vinyl toys, obsessively and intricately arranged to almost resemble a private collection. Sweet! Flynn's prints line the walls with myriad fixations: robots powered by hamster wheels, Star Wars vehicles, Godzilla characters. Neat! The show is Subtext's bread and butter, surely in step with its Juxtapoz magazine-reading, lowbrow-appreciating clientele that makes the gallery one of a kind in San Diego. Yet, the Texas-born, San Francisco-based Flynn's work has a hard time relating to anyone outside of that core demographic, and the show, which runs through May 2, seems like a retread of the shows Subtext used to hold in its old location further down Kettner. There's no doubting that Flynn's design-minded work is swell and most certainly artful, but any viewer with only a slight familiarity with his mediums and inspirations will be left with disposable adjectives: Cool. Neat. Sweet. Are those enough? www.subtextgallery.com.
Mannered Bodies @ San Diego Museum of Art
The past is usually stranger than the future, especially in art. An artist's imagination of what is to come is always bound by present concerns. Mannered Bodies, a modest exhibition of late renaissance prints at the San Diego Museum of Art, helps remind us of the revelations that remain from the past, especially when they have not been dulled with over-familiarity. On one hand, the prints delight with their joyful craftsmanship, with the magic of how arrays of cross-hatches and lines can produce such ripe and sensual forms. But the work also surprises with the witty stylistic extravagance of mannerism itself, couched between Renaissance classicism and the more visceral appeal of the baroque, while at the same time continuing a focus on allegorical and emblematic subject matter. Indeed, it is refreshing to see allegory presented with such direct enthusiasm, and with a self-conscious wit not yet spoiled by smug irony. Curiously, the prints remind me of pop surrealism, but without the obvious politics or tired transgressions.
Divergence @ SDSU Downtown Gallery
You can see the future of art just walking around San Diego campuses. But more often than not, the artists have to move to one of the perceived cultural hubs in order to get the attention they deserve. Such is the case with all three of the multimedia, multi-generational artists that have christened the new SDSU Gallery inside the Electra Building across from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's Downtown location. All of them were educated at SDSU before settling in L.A., Santa Monica and even Montana. Now fully evolved in their artistic inclinations (if an artist ever truly can be), they've returned home to showcase their journeys—John Baldessari with his mix of photography and painting, Deborah Butterfield with her amazing sculptural folk-art of horses. But the real proof that SDSU was and remains an incubator for emerging talent is Escondido-born Andrea Zittel. Cleverly traversing the line between sculpture and furniture, her mostly wood designs are bold, unique and anything but domestic. And like Zittel, the show overall, which will be up through Jan. 3, 2011, is a fantastic first statement. downtowngallery.sdsu.edu.
Laerke Lauta @ Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Downtown
A careful assortment of evocative images can inspire the energy of narrative without the burden of reductive explanations. The Danish artist Laerke Lauta, now showing at the Downtown location of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego through June 20, has created two custom installations that bring together related series of evocative videos and make use of the observer's own imagination to create out of these assemblies a mysterious whole. The five videos that comprise “Floating Female,” for instance, are united by central images of a woman dressed in a simple yet fluid red dress, and, apparently, the same woman in an extravagant wing-like cloak of brilliant white feathers. In each video, there's a stark interplay between subject and background, be it a generic nightclub, a lonely field or a wind-mottled marsh. There's little action in the videos, but Lauta makes witty use of this very lack of motion, such that a solitary dance, a breath of wind or a ripple in the water, is cryptically suggestive. The northern landscape in particular has a brooding and beautiful presence. www.mcasd.org.