Communication Breakdown – THREE ABSTRACT ARTISTS SHOW AT MICHAELKATE

Isis,' Liv Zutphen Brad Nack photos
Isis,’ Liv Zutphen
Brad Nack photos

Curator Brad Nack has brought three artists, mostly locals from the region, for a show at MichaelKate Interiors that doesn’t even try to match the crazed intensity of its Halloween/October exhibit. Instead, this show, titled “Perfect Day” as a nod to the recently passed Lou Reed, acts as a sort of palate cleanser. We have the bold graphics of James Paul Lambert, the brutal abstracts of Liv Zutphen and the landscapes of Julie Young to contend with. Do the three have anything really to do with each other? Not really, apart from the abstract, but their jarring proximity is a breather, a chance to regroup. All three are worth checking out.

Julie Young’s landscapes break geography into geometric shapes and explode them onto her canvases in her colorful oil paintings. There’s a Chagall and Miro-like dance in such works like “Summerland Beach,” where the sand can barely be seen through the blue and green shapes (swimmers? umbrellas?), or “Paradise Road” with its green curlicues and odd stripes. Elsewhere in sketchier and centered “Hendry’s Beach” or “150 Lookout,” one can see the paragliders off the cliffs, for example, but it’s still like a half-remembered dream. For those not versed in the look of Santa Barbara, it may not just look abstract. Call it a hidden message to the locals.

'Laguna Series No.1 Red/Black,'James Paul Lambert
‘Laguna Series No.1 Red/Black,’James Paul Lambert
'John's Porch,'Julie Young
‘John’s Porch,’Julie Young
Any messages in Liv Zutphen’s art are to be found in the titles and any lively discussion to be had with the artist (which happened on opening night last week). Ms. Zutphen hails from the Bay Area, lives in Venice, but exhibits more here (a few months ago, her paintings were hanging at Roy restaurant). There’s a bit of DeKooning and a lot of Franz Kline in these mostly square paintings, angry and jagged brushwork, segmenting the canvas into black lines. They have titles like “Isis” or “Ishatar” and work in archetypal shapes. (Ms. Zutphen spoke about human figures and objects, but they are more hidden than in Ms. Young’s work). The color work is more playful to look at, with titles like “Paloma” (a street in Venice) filled with objects buzzing around, maybe something like a face or two, a blur of sensory input. “St. John” and “For Xe” both have bold, primary colors trying to break free from her black brushstrokes, and “Glasses” is all frames, appropriately enough.

While Ms. Zutphen’s art is serious in its play, the bold, graphic designs of James Lambert hearken back to the airbrushed product art of the early ’80s — yet rendered into large acrylics. The artist has brought older work to show a progression: four small graphite works of dynamic lines and shapes, which leads into something from the “Micheltorena Series” that looks like a psychedelic corncob or an eyeball. Color is graded and soft. But in the large “Laguna Series” that dominates the gallery, that softness has been shed for bold, flat colors. Some paintings have been reduced to three colors — others just two. The inspiration comes from car detail and model kits and sleek hopes for a better future, even if the gyres that widen at the center of his best work may cause vertigo.

There may be a conversation going on between all three artists’works that curator Brad Nack can hear. Even if not, all three have something to say.

‘Perfect Day’
James Lambert, Julie Young and Liz Zutphen
When: Through December 29
Where: MichaelKate Interiors and Gallery, 132 Santa Barbara St.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday,
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Wednesdays
Cost: Free
Information: 963-1411, www.michaelkate.com

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