A carton of milk's shelf life is pretty specific: Just read the label and you'll know, within days, when it's time to pour the contents down the drain. News and art also go sour, but it's significantly more difficult to predict when these vital cultural products are past their prime, no longer useful and ready to be tossed.
At the Angstrom Gallery, Yishai Jusidman's 14 oils on panel invite visitors to consider the differences and similarities between art and news, particularly in terms of the way each inhabits time. It's a terrifically unsentimental show that zeros in on the transience of all things and the importance of hanging on to whatever you value most, despite what others think.
Jusidman's palette is contemporary, filled with synthetic blends and artificial accents. Yet it's also classic, softened and complicated by the prevalence of such organic colors as earthy browns, hazy grays and smoggy yellows. It almost seems as if you're looking at his handsomely crafted pictures through smudged lenses. Or that the carefully varnished panels have been around so long that they have suffered the same fate as old news- print -- darkening, getting brittle and beginning to disintegrate.
Jusidman has based each of his images on the thumbnail photographs in the World This Week section of the Economist magazine. Some are portraits, including of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (looking exhausted), Tony Blair (looking flummoxed), a coal miner (looking heroic) and a young protester (exuding righteous defiance).
Other paintings depict the victims of deliberate and accidental violence, refugees and immigrants, modern pirates, historical reenactments, moments of urban leisure and an instance of America's epidemic obesity.
No wall labels, captions or printed messages link any of the paintings to precise times or places. Although it's easy to recall the stories that accompany some, other events have already faded into obscurity. The subjects of most come somewhere in between, with the general outline of the story still available to memory even if most of the details have been lost.
Jusidman has been working on the ongoing series "The Economist Shuffle" for more than three years. Although it's haunting to witness once-gripping headlines drift into oblivion, it's even more sobering to think that the pace of painting is not all that different from that of the news -- slower, certainly, but no real match for the inhuman sweep of history. News stories and paintings both disappear from history unless they capture so much that is so significant to so many that they become mythical or legendary, so interwoven with the social fabric that they change the world.
That's a tall order for a painting. But it's one Jusidman confronts head-on in his exhibition, his first solo show in Los Angeles since a 1996 survey at Otis College of Art and Design.
Angstrom Gallery, 2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 204-3334, through Dec. 23. Closed Sundays and Mondays.www.angstromgallery.com.
Paintings deliver a jolt of solitude
People never appear in Cole Case's paintings of places familiar to folks who live in Los Angeles or just visit. A human presence, however, is suggested by the everyday objects the L.A. painter depicts: a nearly empty margarita glass, a battery-operated lantern aglow on a park picnic table or a portable television tuned to the news from 1968.
The moments Case paints are increasingly rare ones when we city dwellers are left alone with our thoughts, free from other people (not to mention the distractions of instant digital communication) and momentarily adrift in our heads, where desire and regret fuel all sorts of reveries and recollections. Think of each of his sev- en oils at Western Project as a pause button in your rapid-fire life, a unique chance to step back from the hurly-burly and experience a jolt of solitude.
The scenes and settings Case depicts are simple: a sunlit tabletop on the patio at an old-fashioned Mexican res- taurant; a shadow-shrouded booth at a local watering hole; the spotlighted stage at the Hollywood Bowl during a nighttime performance; the Hollywood Forever Cemetery under a rain-cleared sky.
The way he applies paint is far more complex.
Sometimes Case lets his turpentine-thinned colors run freely, dripping down the canvas and bleeding into one another, like supersaturated watercolors on the verge of chaos. At others, he trowels on thick pigment as if it's mortar and he's cementing bricks.
Some parts of some paintings are sculpted, built into three dimensions so that they have the tactility of the real thing. Other parts appear to have been applied with the fastidiousness of hobbyists who fill in every abstract shape of a paint-by-numbers set as if their lives depended on it. And still others have the hokey charm of outsider art, a sort of ham-fisted Pointillism that marries the unself-conscious earnestness of children's drawings with the savvy verve of avant-garde innovation.
All these elements pale in comparison to the way Case makes light spill from his paintings. From the ghostly glow of a black-and-white television to the cool blue illumination of hundreds of cellphones held up at a concert, he makes light come alive.
Whether its yellow dazzle shines from megawatt spotlights, seeps from a battery-powered lantern or bathes all of Los Angeles in the crystalline clarity of autumn mornings, light provides the magic that makes Case's paintings dance in your imagination. The landscapes they illuminate are at once intimate and ordinary, part of the world we all live in yet wonderfully out of step with its relentless rhythm and unforgiving tempo.
AROUND THE GALLERIES