Jane Gottlieb: Beyond Belief

At the Carnegie Art Museum, through June 4.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

JG-MiroGarden-xl.jpgSanta Barbara artist Jane Gottlieb
has a thing about color. She likes it heavy, unnatural, and
super-saturated. Fine for a painter, but in a photographer — which
Gottlieb is — it’s more often that not a bit over the top, a
gesture that arouses and disturbs, often at the same time. Add the
fact that this is not color found, as in pictures of brightly
colored things, but rather color introduced, as in pictures of
things brightly colored by hand, or Photoshop, and always after the
picture has been taken, and you have the makings of a potential
party, or a clamorous color collision. In her current show at the
Carnegie Art Museum in downtown Oxnard, Gottlieb manages to produce
mostly the former, in a festive atmosphere of slightly surreal
landscapes oozing vibrant yellows, electric blues, and hot, hot,
hot pinks.

Gottlieb’s subjects vary from the ridiculous to the sublime. Her
1995 image of “Miró’s Playground” twists the Spanish artist’s
biomorphic sculpture away from his compadre Picasso and into the
meta-artistic direction of Andy Warhol’s prints. “Life,” an
impressive fantasy in pink, green, and yellow, takes as its point
of departure a photo of our own MacKenzie Park lawn bowling
facility. The transformation of the park scene,
which — uncharacteristic of Gottlieb — includes a dozen or so human
figures, is representative of the effect her incessant colorization
has on the world as a whole. Majestic palms and a central stand of
cacti take on iconic functions, suggesting a vaguely Egyptian sense
of ceremony and ritual foreboding. The pink of the contrasting
foliage riots toward the sky in twin clouds, while its repetition
in the halos that surround the boles of the palms suggests
fireworks. Bowlers and their green alike are casually translated
from this realm to another, where it feels as though an alien
invasion could be imminent.

The beauty of this show lies partly in its wonderful location,
the quirky and surprising Carnegie Art Museum. With its Greek
Revival columns and façade, and its location in the Centennial
Plaza section of Oxnard, the museum is an improbable monument to
the persistence of “culture” in the face of urbanization. Situated
just a few short steps from a multiplex cinema, a Cold Stone
Creamery, and a Starbucks, the museum manages to at once give off
the enticing fizz of the new and the dignity and gravitas of the
certifiably old. Gottlieb’s art, like the museum in which it is now
on view, is a lively mixture of old and new, established and
contemporary, that brings with it a festive and relaxed atmosphere
in which marvelous things seem possible again.


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