CHANGING INSTALLATIONS: Stylized vines creep up a wall and disappear in a tangle of ribbons. Whorls of twine give way to coiled springs, clusters of seedpods, clumps of reeds. A line of birds bursts from this dense and delicate landscape as if darting from an overgrown thicket.
Ann Diener’s work deals with the change in Southern California’s agrarian landscape during the course of the last century, from family farms to industrialized agriculture and suburban sprawl. Her latest work, created in situ at UCSB’s University Art Museum (UAM), spans an entire wall from floor to ceiling. In the course of the past month, a team of seven undergraduates has been working with the artist 20 hours a week to implement this vision of nature and technology clashing and merging on a grand scale. Using graphite, paint, paper cutouts, and digital prints, they have built a richly layered image that is at once wildly chaotic and finely detailed. Like the evolving landscape it describes, this work is full of transitions and turmoil, beauty and ambiguity. Change, it seems to insist, is the only constant. The work is on view now through June 20.
A reception at UAM on Friday, February 26, at 5:30 p.m., will also feature the opening of a video installation by U.K.-based artistic team John Wood and Paul Harrison. Answers to Questions employs low-tech videos featuring simple props. Expect an intriguing combination of slapstick humor and aesthetic sophistication.
SWEET AND DARK: Over at Elsie’s (117 W. De la Guerra St.) through March 1, you’ll find new work by Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Texas, and Santa Barbara artists. Afterglow is as full of unexpected treats as a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. The front room is dedicated to works on Plexiglas by Frijol Boy, whose recurring subject is a cute, sea-green bunny with a cuboid head full of dark fantasies. When he’s not smoking a cigarette, he’s shackled in handcuffs, holding a gun to his temple, or dreaming of someone else doing so.
In the side room, check out Yuki Miyazaki’s cat girl, who seems to be suffering a bad drug trip—complete with bat-winged syringes—and Nomelove’s big-eyed, bare-breasted girls, who inhabit surrealist landscapes: Slugs and buttons burst from body cavities, and llamas smoke pipes stuffed with green trolls. Loretta Gonzalez takes a pop-art approach to her works on wood panel featuring anonymous preteen superheroes and members of The Mickey Mouse Club, while Aeda places familiar subjects in sweet contexts: Princess Leia wears cinnamon buns on her ears, and Count Dracula drools bloodily over a steaming berry pie.
ROAD TRIP ROUNDUP: When Brooks Institute students Robb Klassen and Dustin Damron set out to drive a used Miata across the country in midwinter, they might have known to expect the unexpected. They made it just past the Continental Divide to Denver when they slid on a patch of ice and decided to fly the rest of the way to Chicago. Luckily for us, they’ve brought back images from both segments of the journey. Their photographs from Utah, Colorado, and Illinois are now on view through the end of the month at the French Press (1101 State St.). From canyons of swirling, reddish rock dusted with snow to the fire escapes and dumpsters of Chicago’s alleyways, these subtly enhanced digital images are printed on canvas. Klassen’s overexposed vision of a snaggletooth fence cutting across a snowfield might make you want to break out in an a capella rendition of “Desperado,” while Damron’s meditative shot of a backstreet loading dock is the photographic equivalent of a Mondrian, nearly abstract in its emphasis on line, shape, and color. The artistry around here isn’t limited to the walls: Pair your viewing experience with a cup of the best coffee (or chai) in town.