Sixth and La Brea is populated with vintage clothing stores, trendy furniture outlets and hip boutique concerns. Liz’s Antique Hardware, at 453 South, isn’t much to look at from the outside. Inside it’s not much better. The store is filled with ancient doors, old light fixtures, bins of tarnished doorknobs, decorative heating grates. Liz Gordon stocks antique home furnishings that date from 1850 onward.
If piles of china soap dishes, lamp finials and doorknockers overwhelm you — look to the wooden floor. Worn red arrows point this way and that to a lighted staircase. White walls and framed artwork alert you that you’ve ascended to The Loft at Liz’s. Gordon loves her hardware store, but a gal can only retrofit so many other people’s homes. Nine years ago she decided to scratch her creative itch by opening an upstairs art gallery.
Cal State Northridge art professor Betty Ann Brown curated “The Drawing Show,” currently at The Loft. Ten local artists of varying motives and repute show us where they live: Abel Alejandre, Jodi Bonassi, Nancy Baker Cahill, Susan Feldman, Joanne Julian, Echiko Ohira, Milo Reice, Kent Twitchell, J. Michael Walker and Andre Yi. The results are a grouping that braces, soothes, jabs, charms and provokes.
Prior to the conceptual art boom 40 years ago and the computer revolution, all artists drew. They mapped out plans and worked out formal problems on the page. Not so now, after minimalism declared that representational art is dead and we’ve been told for a generation that the idea is the most important component in art. “The Drawing Show” is a reassuring reminder that the artist’s most direct conduit—from-head-to-hand-to-page—is still indispensable.
A good drawing can be as revealing as it is rewarding. At The Loft, renowned muralist Twitchell has several pencil studies; two of them (artist Lita Albuquerque and the Old Woman of the Freeway) were prelims for iconic roadside images. His studies are made up of short strokes and the forms just seem to emerge from the dark to the light. Cahill’s knotted fabrics say more about her methodology than anything else: she uses graphite boldly and an eraser judiciously. Alejandre lets the tooth of his gessoed canvas provided texture for his figures and faces. Julian shows two exquisite color plant studies and five equally fine constructs that combine sumi-like expressive watercolor swashes with finely rendered bird forms.
Yi exhibits an acute sense of design and tight rendering that fools the eye; are his images strictly drawn or are some of the parts actual photographs? J. Michael Walker’s color pieces used old pages and maps to give an extra dimension to his female depictions. Bonassi fools the eye in a different way: view them from afar and they’re naïve sketches of children. Move in closer and she invites you to meander with her down visual rabbit holes. Reice works rough, with charcoal on textured surfaces but look close and see the assurance and detail—especially of the brothel scenes. Ohiro’s Zen-like constellations of organized markings invite the viewer to supply meaning.
This potent little show not only affirms that drawing is still relevant, but that ten artists bring personal visions as individual as thumbprints.
Kirk Silsbee publishes promiscuously on rock, jazz and culture.
Photo credit: artist J. Michel Walker, courtesy Ellen Berman
Curator Betty Ann Brown moderates an artists’ talk with Kent Twitchell, Joanne Julian, Andre Yi and Abel Alejandro on Saturday, Oct. 24, 3-5 p.m.
The Drawing Show | The Loft at Liz’s | 453 S. La Brea Ave | thru Nov 2