Order and Chaos: Rich and Rewarding Work at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art

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Order and Chaos, at Orange County Center of Contemporary art through this Saturday, is a supremely lovely show, visually rich and full of life; infused with the wonders of science and the intensity of the artistic process.

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Artist and curator Annie Clavel notes that the show is a continuation of her past work, Parallel Universes, and is built around the scientific concept of “chaos theory.”

“I have always been impressed by how a simple equation in mathematics could burst into an incredible never ending complexity, like fractals,” Clavel says. 

The French-born artist, now based in Long Beach, explains that chaotic systems, such as fractals, can appear smooth and ordered. Fractals themselves are a never ending pattern, created by a simply, repeating process in a perpetual feedback loop, and as such are pictures of chaos.

As fascinating as this is – particularly when viewers recognize that Clavel is a scientist and mathematician as well as an artist – the exhibition works purely on its visual beauty, with a surreal and swirling palette.

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Above, Clavel’s watercolor “Oasis,” is part flower, part imploded planet; mysterious and fecund with a glowing life force.

Below,  Osuna’s work in oil, “Conundrum,” seems to draw viewers inside darker unfolding, a velvety night, an imploded star.

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Clavel and Miguel Osuna started working on their show a year ago, sharing information and ideas about its theme.

“We knew each other work quite well. His paintings are monochromatic and huge. My paintings are colorful and most of them are small. It’s this diversity that looked like a perfect fit,” Clavel relates.

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Above, Clavel’s series of small paintings are intimate, perfectly wrought abstract works.

“The display is not chaotic, but the diversity goes into the direction of chaos. I would like that the viewer feels harmony and disproportion, balance and imbalance, order and chaos,” Clavel says.

Osuna’s oil on aluminum works, below, seem to have absorbed both light and color within their surface, works whose form are as yet inchoate, but seem in the process of definition.

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Osuna views his work as intuitive. An architect, his desire is to create order from chaos in his art.

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Clavel’s “Lava 3” is a fiery, volcanic rush; contrasting with work such as this is Osuna’s “Rule of Thumb,” below, is an equally intense work, but far different in style and approach – this is lava that has cooled and formed a more cohesive pattern.

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“His paintings in this show are conversing with mine, even if they are very different. Many viewers have expressed that Miguel’s paintings were order and mine were chaos. It is not: both of us have experienced in different ways order being chaos or chaos being order,” Clavel attests. “I hope that the viewer can feel the cohesion of our experimentations.”

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Above, Clavel’s “Cosmology 3” appears to be in perpetual motion. Thick, lush colors evoke a world viewers could almost touch. Below, her “Thunder” throbs with the power of a raging sea.

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Over the course of their preparations for the show, Osuna and Clavel both shared photos of their works and their concept on Instagram, #OrderAndChaosShow

Osuna says that his latest explorations on surface, reflexion and glare allow him to create his own mini-universe.  “I can represent both my understanding and my questioning of the universe at large. Ultimately, my hope is that the viewer shares this microcosm with me, searching for the same ideas, solutions, and emotions that connect us.” This view drew Clavel’s interest at a time in which she was still working on her previous series.

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Above, Clavel’s “Playing Dice.”

“I thought that we could do something about ‘Universes,’ however I wanted to change the direction of my work,” she attests. “At that time I was reading a few books written by mathematicians, such as What we Cannot Know by Marcus du Sautoy and Does God Play Dice? by Ian Stewart. Those books inspired me to think about the way the universe behaves, and that’s how the idea of a show about Order and Chaos came to my mind.” 

Clavel invited Osuna to participate in her show as a guest artist.

The result is a show that shimmers with light, form, color, and mystery – the very essence of chaotic impulses that are the basis for creativity. If the world formed from chaos and became ordered, then the world of art, with all its passion and chaos, creates order in the form of channeled artistic impulse.

A conversation with artists Annie Clavel and Miguel Osuna will take place Sept. 23rd, 2017 – 2 to 4 pm, moderated by Jill Moniz.

The gallery is located at 117 N. Sycamore in Santa Ana.

  • Genie Davis; photos courtesy of the artists

 

The Merchant of Venice at Theatricum Botanicum: Timely Truths

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Take a beautiful outdoor setting, terrific acting, and a comedy/drama by William Shakespeare, and what do you have? A late season treat at Theatricum Botanicum with the artfully staged, politically potent The Merchant of Venice.

The theater itself is always an experience, and it fits the play perfectly here, the outdoor setting perhaps not that dissimilar to theaters of Shakespeare’s time. Certainly viewing a stellar performance such as this in such an intimate and outdoor setting enhances the play’s power.

It’s worth noting that in this political climate, the topic of anti-semitism, a key element of the play, is certainly worth examining. If Shakespeare did so with an unflinching eye then so can we.

With intensely quotable lines, and enough twists and turns to be a telenovela, The Merchant of Venice may be most memorable for the controversy it continues to stir in its characterization of Shylock, the Jewish money lender.

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Alan Blumenfeld makes a compelling Shylock, one whose demand for a pound of flesh from a defaulting merchant debtor is grounded in his own desire for vengeance, retaliation at least in part for the prejudice and humiliation he experiences from Christians. An added opening scene actually reveals Shylock being mocked by others in the community, creating a nice little backstory to his reprehensible demand for payment in the flesh. In short, Blumenfeld makes Shylock as sympathetic as possible, particularly in regard to his poignant relationship to his daughter.

So where’s the comedy mined from? Besides the clown Launcelot, there’s a musical addition to this production in a riff on the discouragement of unwanted would-be suitors, and of course, artfully woven in the dialog are a variety of pithy Shakespearean comebacks. But this is a dark comedy indeed, particularly when one considers the role of Portia, played here by Willow Geer. Disguised as a lawyer, she succeeds in getting the debtor merchant off the hook, but she also utterly humiliates Shylock, taking away his property and very identity.

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With Shakespeare himself unable to comment, there is no way to determine if the anti-semitism depicted were something he agreed with or denounced. But perhaps that begs the question – is the play timely? Does it still present a raw truth, however we wish to ignore it? Is the pound of flesh to be exacted justifiable in the face of continued abuse? Just the fact that these questions come up make the play itself one valuable viewing experience these days. And an entertaining one.

Take in the production through October 1st in the perfect sylvan setting of the Botanicum.

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  • Genie Davis; photos provided by the theater

 

Paved New World Offers Brave New Role for Actor Daniel Pinder

 

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Daniel Pinder, well known for his role as Michael on Chicago PD – and for his love of skate boarding – is about to start in a new film project, Paved New World . With a powerful role inspiring his craft, he found the transition to a big-screen project inspiring.

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“We start filming in October in Los Angeles and I can’t wait. The movie is set in the 90s and follows two teens, Slim and Kilgore on their last day of summer as they travel across town to watch their skate boarding idol attempt a suicidal skate trick,” Pinder explains. “It’s really a coming of age story about these best friends on a journey of finding themselves.”

Pinder terms the story eminently relatable, and he feels he’s fortunate to be able to help tell it. “My character Slim is really spectacular. He’s very artistic; he’s a rebel at times with a sensitive side. He’s the kind of friend that everyone wants in their group of friends, the friend that will take a bullet for you.”

The film, written by Bio-Dome creators Scott Marcano and two time Emmy nominated and Golden Globe winner Kip Koenig of Greys Anatomy is directed by Skate God director Alexander Garcia. Pinder will be sharing the screen with actors such as Nash Grier from The Outfield and You Get Me, and as his love-interest, Claudia Lee of Kick-Ass 2 and Hart of Dixie.

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Pinder has loved acting since his childhood. “I get to entertain whoever the audience is and hopefully make an impact on their lives.” He says that he always knew that he wanted to impact other people’s lives, but wasn’t always sure how.

“Through watching movies or television shows that I liked, I started to see that the characters in these shows go through things I might have been going through at that time or things I might go through in the future, and it’s like the characters were teaching me or showing me ways to deal with the things in my life.” Calling this a moment of discovery, Pinder says this was when he knew that “acting was the thing for me, and the way I wanted to help other people.”

Pinder was raised in Fargo, North Dakota, far from the Los Angeles and New York acting scene. His friends and family have been supportive. “We all push each other to work hard to succeed at whatever we want to do,” he relates.

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Pinder’s first role on Chicago PD made him fall in love with acting. “Michael was my first role. I got the part two months after dropping out of culinary school,” he laughs. “I was living in Minneapolis at the time and I actually self-taped my audition in my basement. I got called back again the night after my tape was submitted asking for more video of me, and I was told it was down between me and about 8 other guys.” He got the call every actor wants to hear – you got the role – the night of his father’s birthday party.

Pinder says he relates well to the character, and was able to bring his favorite hobby – skateboarding – to the character, too.

Along with Paved New World, the actor just finished working on Alexander Garcia’s film Skate God. The skateboarding hobby Pinder has long enjoyed is useful for this role, as well.

The just-released film, which also involves actor Peter Fonda, deals with the descendent of Greek gods in a dystopian future. Pinder plays the role of Clash. Director Garcia is also working with Pinder on an upcoming mystery, Gallatin 6.

But it’s Paved New World which is most on Pinder’s mind right now. Having a lead role is an exciting first.

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“I really did fight for this part. I actually flew down from Fargo to Los Angeles to meet with Scott Marcano and Kip Koenig who wrote the film. They told me their vision, and I told them what I wanted to bring to the project and we really clicked. I think what makes me right for this part is that I understand Slim and in a weird way I feel like I’ve been very close to this character most of life,” Pinder asserts.  “What I most identify with in him is his passion. I’m very excited for everyone to meet Slim.”

Pinder adds “Besides the amazing team behind the movie, what really drew me to Slim was that he makes choices that I didn’t have the courage to do in my real life.”

Of course, pursuing acting itself was a courageous choice, and Pinder does have a few salient words of advice for anyone who wishes to follow in his footsteps. “Always stay unique because that’s what people are looking for. Work hard, stay true to yourself, and don’t change just to fit into the L.A. scene. You can do it no matter where you live as long you’re willing to put in the work,” he smiles. “If I can do it while I was living in Fargo, you can do it too.”

  • Genie Davis; photos provided by Daniel Pinder

Paved New World is set to release June 21, 2018.

William Leavitt: Cycladic Figures at Honor Fraser

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Movie sets, paintings, and sculptural installations comprise William Leavitt’s fascinating Cycladic Figures at the Honor Fraser gallery in Culver City through October 23rd. It’s a quintessentially Los Angeles exhibition, vibrantly artistic and infused within the form of the film industry. After all, we are still a filmmaker’s town as much as a blossoming art center, so what better way to combine the two creative heartbeats of the city than in an exhibition that makes Honor Fraser into a personal sound stage. Leavitt is a Los Angeles-based artist, known for his immersive installations, and is a true L.A. renaissance man, writing plays, building sets, making films, creating paintings, drawings, and installations. The artist has said that his work frames a story through an object, situation, or painting. From there, the viewer is left to continue the story, making his work gently interactive.

The title of the exhibition sets the stage, so to speak, for what the viewer experiences. It refers to sculptures created in the Cyclades Islands located off the coast of Greece five thousand years ago. The name of these islands refers to a circle, and the islands were said by the ancient Greeks to surround the holy island and sanctuary of Apollo. Little is known about the Cycladic people and their world – and perhaps we, too, know little about our own — perhaps we circle an unknowable sanctuary.

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In Leavitt’s work, the sense of mystery that surrounds the Cyclades Islands also surrounds our contemporary world. At Honor Fraser, there are intimate universes that the viewer walks through and around, part noir, part sci-fi. Color and light make each work into a separate and immersive space. With “Lennie’s Set,” the effect is pure noir, all that’s necessary is for the femme fatale to walk into the room and engage the services of what surely must be private investigator Lennie. Sunglasses, an almost archaic wind-up clock, and a rotary phone are on the desk, while a shadow, undeniably feminine, dark against a wash of golden light, is projected onto the brown venetian blinds behind that desk. There’s a brief case on the floor, a standing lamp with a dusty brass base. And yet – there is also an empty, clear green plastic leftover container which no noir p.i. would have ever seen. Are we time travelers?

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With “Faraday Cage” we are surely entering the realm of science fiction, with a wood and metal mesh cage surrounding a plastic lawn chair. Behind these objects is a garage cum Rube Goldberg-esque science lab. Once serving as a set in Leavitt’s film Cycladic Figures, an interesting transition happens when this set is displayed as an artwork.

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It is like watching a film within a film – a set artfully rendered becomes a sculpture that could serve as a film set, one in which the “audience” is invited to break the third wall of cinematic framing and walk on through. Viewers are thus invited to alter the narrative scope of the sculpture – their very presence changes it.

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Also a part of the exhibition are Leavitt’s paintings and works on paper. In a similar fashion to his installation work, he creates layered scenes that invite the viewer to develop them. Leavitt’s conceptual work in his “Head Space” series reveals two silhouetted faces against a background that morphs fields and cities as distant landscapes, while the faces themselves contain floating objects and architectural ruins.

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We are where are as much as who we are, Leavitt seems to posit, and where we are is not only this time or corporeal space but the past and future landscape as well.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Courtesy of artist/gallery and Genie Davis