Andi Campognone Projects
WhiteHot Magazine
The Artists of the Film MANA
Lancaster Museum of Art and History
June 21 -- August 31, 2014


It’s pronounced “MAH-nah” -- an untranslatable Polynesian concept that refers to an elusive but ubiquitous sense of awe-filled connectedness to the patterns and powers of natural forces -- especially the ocean. The current exhibition at Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH) highlights the work of ten visual artists whose lives and studio practices are defined by the presence of mana in their conciousnesses and on their canvasses. They are the same ten artists who are featured in the new documentary film MANA, directed by photographer Eric Minh Swenson, which unpacks their individual relationships to the ocean as an allegory for creative momentum.

Popular Jungian-style analysis of water as a stand-in for the subconscious makes a lot of sense; you dream of a roiling ocean, a placid lake, an icy woodland brook, etc. and an emotional match is easy to grasp. And surfing as a metaphor for riding the creative wave is just as straightforward. The artists in the film speak insightfully about the operations of intuition, focus, and clarity in a personal sense -- and equally passionately about the magic of surface qualities, scale, the role of color, the play of light, luminosity, transparency, undulation, and reflection in a formal sense. Not everyone in the movie is currently an avid daily surfer, though all either are or have been, and all are at least enamored of the oceanside culture, living in either greater LA or on the island. MOAH for its part is dedicated to its geographical region and its particular spirit and history, and committed to a curatorial embrace of the current cultural moment across all media, valuing individual visions of a shared place, like a real-time time-capsule. And there is a quality about this show (and film) that is in perfect alignment with this mission, speaking to the diverse expressions of this waterlogged community.

Most of the work technically exists within the boundaries of traditional genres like painting, sculpture, and photography -- within which arenas they each succeed in defining their own territory, articulating an eclectic array of stylistic, narrative, and material-driven work along the abstract/symbolist/conceptual continuum. As a group they explore the shared topic at hand in as many stylistic modes as there are artists -- in fact, more, as several artists exhibit work in more than one medium. Ned Evans shows both painting and dimensional resin works for the wall, demonstrating the power of light and both saturated and diffuse color in two and three dimensions. While the radiant, gradient orange of the painting invokes the honey-drip of the setting sun despite its geometrical arrangement, the cluster of smaller cast resin drops and puddles come closer to being water than to depicting it. Similarly, Alex Weinstein’s painting is an abstraction, more gestural and expressionistic than Evans’ but no less evocative of the low-hanging sun. Weinstein’s concrete cubes are topped with a layer of wave-motion like frozen riptides; blending hard surface with soft algorithms in a way that again, more embodies than depicts the water it represents. Casper Brindle makes paintings whose shimmering horizon-line vistas seem to change their surface qualities with the directionality of ambient light and viewers’ movements -- sometimes literally changing color due to his use of dichroic pigment. Again, though stylistically singular, we have an example of evocation both rather than and in conjunction with depiction in regarding the sea. His sculptural installation (a school chair on a slightly raised, highly reflective dias, the whole awash in a ceiling-mounted projection of cosmic, nebulous, sparkling light) is both captivating and witty, and refers it seems to time spent staring out the window at school, dreaming of the surf to come.

Evocative quasi-documentarian photographs by Ken Pagliaro portray surfers doing their various alone and together things, paddling out en masse as a memorial gesture, ebulliently riding their chosen crests, contemplating the stunning natural perspectives only available out on the water. They are eccentric, experiential, archetypal, and personal. Restrained, conceptual oceanic topographies are also Steve Fuchs’ happy place -- except rendered in milled wood as topographic patterns that express the fractal quality of ocean water as bas relief drawing made with precision and patience.

There is a decided prevalence of specific materials which tether the group to specific Los Angeles history and art history -- stencil, collage, spray paint, digitalism, resin, foam, fiberglass, automotive paint, surf wax, light & space, finish fetish. Notable is Eric Johnson whose undulating, glimmering, glass-like, watery resin works are simultaneously abstract paintings and natural-sciences style dimension rendering of wave form, not unlike Weinstein’s sculptural blocks. Johnson achieves both solidity (mass) and luminosity (refraction), and by hanging them on the wall, the cast shadows discover their own part to play in the sculptural experience of the work. Alex Couwenberg makes paintings that also have a slightly sculptural aspect to them -- in that the multiple layers of textured pigment used to construct his engineered supernovas are build up off the surface, so that the interplay of color, style of mark making, and a physicality of the surface elements not usually associated with the kind of hard-edge abstraction he practices all have a role to play in his explosive engineering of a rich, luscious tertiary palette.

Painters Ben Brough and David Lloyd each take on certain kinds of specific imagery, cultivating versions of the laid-back surrealism fostered by the topsy-turvy visual culture in Surflandia. Across Brough’s rough and tumble bleached color fields are scattered emblems of the people and their habits in a deceptively simple style that seems sparse but contains multitudes. Lloyd creates a multidextrous jumble that through contemplation resolves its unique deployment of trompe l’oeil, geometric hard-edge, and splash-bangs into a proper picture. Some of the most engaging work across the show deals with the overall sensibility of the time and place -- beyond fine art, embracing the attendant culture of music, film, fashion, youth, and sun-worship. That’s where Craig “Skibs” Barker really comes in, with an impressively elaborate installation so unique, quirky, eclectic and exuberant that it threatens to steal the show, but instead contextualizes the whole in a veritable chapel to nostalgia, pop art, and pretty girls. Amid a sprawl of vintage objects (mannequins, knick-knacks, old TV sets playing expertly collaged video clips juxtaposing the sweetness and subversion that characterized the OG surfing generation at the pinnacle of its dope-friendly good life, high-heel shoes, hand-painted signs, copies of Vargas drawings made by the artist’s grandfather, and ads for hosiery only Don Draper could love) by turns collected, appropriated, inherited, and transformed -- amid this orderly tumult one finds large and small paintings in their proper context of vintage, salt-taffy sex appeal.

This post is dedicated to the memory of skate and surf legend Jay Adams of Zephyr and Lords of Dogtown fame, who died suddenly on a surf trip to Mexico during the time of this writing. He went out doing what he loved the most -- chasing mana.
KCET by Evan Senn
Walking up the repurposed bank that now exists as Andi Campognone Projects in downtown Pomona--passing the ominous and creaky glass doors, something evocative and huge comes into view, just past the title wall; it's a large photograph of a very banal-looking building. It sits calmly, unmoving. The colors are muted, and the building seems eerily familiar. Perhaps it is a restaurant of some kind, with lights on inside, and a gaggle of balloons tied to a newspaper dispenser outside its front door. The signage is mysterious and doesn't allude to the inner-workings at all. The inference of humanity is put upon this seemingly empty place, but no human activity is recorded. Next to it is another seemingly abandoned building, a beautiful and forgotten gas station, with a style that suggests the visual kinesis of art deco, which now has become dilapidated and calm. The composition demands a long stare from a viewer; these gorgeous old and empty photographs only hint at humanity, and seem to act as more of a relic of our presence.

The photographs of Amir Zaki portray a vacuous spirit of the Inland Empire; subjects look as though they were once full of life, but now appear abandoned, spacious and slow. For as long as I can remember the IE has been like these photos, a vast space full with emptiness. The photographs of Amir Zaki show that side of the IE without judgement; instead, they provide loving attention and just enough human reference to make them evoke story-telling a time long forgotten. Zaki takes the buildings out of the recognizable setting of any city, and objectifies them. "They are more peculiar, almost portrait-like in their insistence on foregrounding the eccentricities that make each structure and the surrounding landscape unique," he says. The theme of personified buildings runs through the entire exhibition. Work by Naida Osline, Lewis deSoto, Sant Khalsa, Robert Flick Tony Maher, Julie Shafer and Thomas McGovern all show these banal yet intriguing parts of the IE -- from a variety of perspectives, but composed in such a way you can't help but feel a narrative aspect, a human presence left lingering in details, full of intrigue. The photographic works in the exhibition developed from each artist's creative impulse to visually articulate their independent experience of being here.

"Untitled (91)" by Amir Zaki | Photo: Courtesy of Andi Campognone Projects.
The Inland Empire was one of the first areas settlers flocked to during the California Gold Rush, as it was a luscious and supple green valley area, with a natural water source running through the heart of it -- the Santa Ana River. The wide expanse of the Inland Empire became home to hundreds of thousands, just 50 miles east of the metropolis of Los Angeles, this area had the convenience of being close enough to the major cities of the area, without losing that quiet and spacious attraction that the area was known for. Nowadays, the same rings true. The difference is that somehow over the years, some people started regarding the IE as a wasteful area of nothing. Abandoned homes, buildings, garbage -- even the Federal and State government treated the IE like it was a wasteland. Even though the luscious green valley is now more of a boulder bed of mountains and desert, the IE is still one of the few places in California that has a natural water supply -- the only problem is that now, instead of benefiting our own areas, it is pumped into other cities and areas that do not have a natural water source.

"Self Portrait with the Santa Ana River" by Sant Khalsa.
The nine artists included in the exhibition, "Being Here" are all local artists -- either they were born in the IE, work in the IE or spent time growing into themselves in the IE. These artists are touched or impacted by their location, and in "Being Here", they are able to express their emotive inspiration about the IE.

"Each of their creative works provide us with a unique view and perspective of life in the IE, a place close enough to Los Angeles to have the advantages and challenges of a major urban environment yet still a sufficient distance away to develop its own individual character and identity," says curator Sant Khalsa.

Douglas McCulloh's piece in the exhibition is a giant wall piece; an abstract composition that is comprised of over one hundred images that come up in Google when searched for "Inland Empire." McCulloh uses our contemporary technology and modern-day reliance on machines as a means to create a truly contemporary reflection of what people think of when they think of the Inland Empire. "Who needs a camera when Flickr adds 46 million images per month and Facebook serves 1.2 million images per second? The online image world provides deeply layered, remarkably resonant views of every subject imaginable--every place, every culture, every object, every idea," says McCulloh.

"Being Here" Installation Shot, Dougals McCulloh, Lewis deSoto, Julie Shafer | Image: Courtesy of Andi Campognone Projects.

"Being Here" Installation Shot, Thomas McGovern and Amir Zaki | Image: Courtesy of Andi Campognone Projects.

Based on an idea by Sol LeWitt, "The idea is a machine that makes the art," McCulloh not only informs the viewers of the stigmatization of the IE, but also reminds the viewer of the insane reliance on digital media-technology, and helps to reinforce the gap between reality and media.

Just next to the giant Google search, Lewis deSoto's Agua Mansa, meaning "Gentle Water," shows an entire wall of a perfectly photographed image of the car-sea in the ghost town of Agua Mansa, only the cemetery remains, it once was the largest settlements in San Bernardino County. deSoto's photograph is 24" by 128," and every inch of the photograph is a 300 dpi version of that inch, giving every single part of the image a complete and in-focus attentive quality. All of this area is important to deSoto--he relates this artwork to a sea of water, of rising and disassembly of nature. This sea of cars and car parts not only reflects a relic-graveyard of human manufacturing and excess, but in this ghost town, this is their sprawling sea, unmoving, unchanging, with a slight and distant sound of crows and a rush of water through the Santa Ana river reeds.

Naida Osline hones in on another important aspect of the experience of being here in the IE, the psychedelic magic of the desert. Many great artists, writers and musicians have found peace as well as inspiration in the transcendental desert experiences. Whether it is mind and body-altering or just imaginative, the IE desert lands give way to incredible creativity. "The local sky is a constant concern for me," says Osline. "I have been acutely aware of the air pollution, since moving to Riverside in 2010, and obsessively check the air quality for times that it is safe to go outside and take a deep breath. The air quality in the Inland Empire is alarmingly bad and the most damaging pollution for our health is that which is invisible--fine particulate matter. In essence, the sky where I live is both beautiful and toxic."

"Backyard High No. 2" by Naida Osline (Image Courtesy of Andi Campognone Projects)

"Being Here" Installation Shot, "Christmas Flood, 2003 #3, Day Two" by Tony Maher | Image: Courtesy of Andi Campognone Projects.

"Sunset Hotel Fire" by Tony Maher. (Image courtesy of Andi Campognone Projects)
Tony Maher utilizes staged photography with hand made diorama-style scenes of real life events that took place in the IE, the Sunset Hotel Fire from 2002. Maher's photographic practice is obsessively drawn to the concept of memory. Photographs, like the sense of smell, have keen magic to evoke memories in viewers/smellers. The objectification of a life event has the capability of recalling more than just the event itself, and Maher plays on that. His works "deal with the issues of remembrance and the representation of locations in my past, from childhood to adult," he says. "The models I create and then photograph become simulacra for the places I once lived, visited or simply hung out. They tend to offer more than the recreation of the original experience as well, often conjuring up more than just the one original memory of that specific life experience."

Each of the artists in this exhibition bring a totally different view on their amorous ideas of what this land holds. "Being Here" has little to no reference of the human figure in the works, but the impressions and relics of imprinted humanity on the environment is notable and intriguing. The artists involved are esteemed photographers in our contemporary SoCal art scene, and the exhibition may be expanded on later next year, but this well-rounded portrait of an underrepresented area is thought provoking and insightful, without people or words to help. An honest observation of the reality of this area results in the creation of highly conceptual and beautifully captured systems of relating to their environment.

"Being Here" at Andi Campognone Projects, 300 W. 2nd Street, Pomona. . Through April 27. Admission is free.
IE Weekly
Exploring the IE through an amorous lens

Discarded car lots, abandoned gas stations, the sprawling expanse of tract homes, and dried-up river beds…Welcome to the Inland Empire, an oasis for those willing to look just a little closer. Andi Campognone Projects in downtown Pomona presents the work of nine artists in a revamped bank building to bring a photographic exhibition of impressive affect to the Inland Empire. Derived from the experiences of living and/or working in the IE, this group of artists creates imagery directly related to their own perspectives of life in this region. Characterized by individual views of the valley, and an unprecedented roster of heavy-hitting artists, this curation of traditional film and non-traditional digital photographs gradually dispels any myths or stereotypes that may permeate the Inland Empire. “Being Here” is a celebration of a little known secret: this place rocks!

So why here? Home is where the heart is, or your heart is where your home is, either way, IE is where their hearts and their homes are. For an artist “place” greatly influences the production and process of one’s work and this show aims to illuminate just how the IE has developed in the works of this group of exceptionally talented and successful photographers. Their strong ties to this region are reflected in the artworks of Lewis deSoto, Robbert Flick, Sant Khalsa, Thomas McGovern, Naida Osline, Tony Maher, Douglas McCulloh, Julie Shafer, and Amir Zaki. Some came and never left, others grew up here, however they settled they each have something in common, they choose not to leave. This could be the principle thread running through the show, a deep appreciation that marks these works as much more than photographs of the landscape. The entire show could be rearranged, and still this commonality would radiate, distinguishing the source of their connection and what sets these images apart is the essential passion these artists feel for this specific region.

Aside from the self-portraiture shadows seen in Khalsa’s work and McCulloh’s digital montage highlighting a Google image search of the Inland Empire, there is an overall absence of “figure” in this show that is almost entirely overlooked and a bit mysterious. While evidence of people can be observed throughout, in the waving balloons and diner lights of Zaki’s images, or the Sunset Hotel engulfed in flames by Maher, the content in these images create such a depth of character that the lack of an actual figure almost goes unnoticed. Rather, the focus becomes reserved for the spaces between, the spots void of conventional attention, hinting at the passage of time, the divides, and the boundaries. An honest observation of the reality of the place these artists are in, results in the creation of highly conceptual and technical systems of expounding their relation to their environment.

As many of the participating artists are also professors at local So-Cal universities, show their works nationally and internationally and have been featured in such institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Whitney, and The MET, it comes as no surprise there is also a striking appreciation for the representation of space and time in the physical techniques ranging from traditional photographic prints to contemporary digital manipulation. Lewis deSoto creates images of extreme resolution by stitching together over 80 detail shots to create a panoramic image using a highly sophisticated digital process, while Shafer transformed a trailer into a giant pinhole camera to create Silver Gelatin negative images of the landscape.

Not just a mirage on the sweltering asphalt, the illusion of this show is that there’s no illusion at all, it’s all right there for the taking, you just have to look! This exhibition offers a peek into a region underrepresented on a multitude of levels. Through a powerful curation of photographers and artworks, there is already talk of a possible expansion of this show in the future. Come catch a glimpse of what these artists have seen for years.

“Being Here” at Andi Campognone Projects, 300 W. 2nd Street, Pomona. Through April 27. Admission is free.

Huffington Post
Being Here | The exhibition features photographic works by 10 extraordinary artists whose imagery derives from the experience of living and/or working in the Inland Empire (IE). Each of the their creative works provide us with a unique view and perspective of life in the IE, a place close enough to Los Angeles to have the advantages and challenges of a major urban environment yet still a sufficient distance away to develop its own individual character and identity.

The IE is characterized by the strong contrast of suburban sprawl, shopping malls, freeways, and small urban centers against open space, towering mountains, immense blue skies, and quiet solitude. For many artists, 'place' greatly influences their ideas, process, and production, and this is reflected in the artworks of Lewis deSoto, Robbert Flick, Sant Khalsa, Thomas McGovern, Naida Osline, Tony Maher, Douglas McCulloh, Susan Rankaitis, Julie Shafer, and Amir Zaki. Their vision is diverse and vast like the nature of the environment -- the landscape and people of the IE. Each artist's work is distinct in its concept, content, and approach, providing us with an opportunity to view and gain understanding of the significance of the everyday -- the ordinary and often overlooked. The photographic works in the exhibition developed from each artist's creative impulse to visually articulate their independent experience of being here.

Being Here opens February 9 at Andi Campognone Projects

Huffington Post
Review in the Huffington Post by Peter Frank:

Megan Geckler has been realizing her webbed multicolor installations around the country and even world of late, but less frequently has she shown small individual pieces. What these frontal objects lack in physical embrace they make up for in visual pizzazz. Geckler’s compositions, fabricated like the installations from flagging tape stretched over tubular steel supports, resemble lawn chairs somehow mutated into Bauhaus tapestries. The tape, gloriously hued in its plastic sheen, describes networks of regularly or not-so-regularly alternating color – or, as frequently, black on white, or even black on black. (As evidenced by this body of work, at least, Geckler experiments incessantly with sometimes surprisingly nuanced color, and non-color, combinations.) Varying the width of her tape, the density of her weave, and/or her palette, Geckler realizes a surprisingly broad formal vocabulary. She also realizes a surprisingly painterly art out of paint-free materials. (Andi Campognone, 300 West 2nd St., Pomona CA; closed.

- Peter Frank

ARTltd Magazine January 2012
Megan Geckler: "A Fraction of the Sum" at Andi Campognone Projects
by christopher michno
Jan 2012

With the creation of eight new works in "A Fraction of the Sum," Megan Geckler foregoes the engagement of architectural space so characteristic of her large-scale installations in favor of a more intimate conversation. Consistent with the hybridized nature of her encompassing installations, which incorporate both painterly and sculptural concerns, the works in "A Fraction" --all constructed from flagging tape interwoven along two axes between wall-mounted stainless steel supports--indicate her interest in the literalness associated with the vocabulary of Minimalism and the phenomenological concerns of Light and Space art. Yet, she also resoundingly signals her enthrallment with abstract painting.

The works in "A Fraction," aside from a few minor changes in depth, essentially operate on two dimensions; as a result, it is a conversation more intensely focused on painterly concerns. Geckler playfully, almost flirtatiously, tweaks optical receptors, in a serious engagement of visual sensuality. The interwoven squares within the repeated cruciform structure of Red, Yellow, Blue exhibit a quality of visual flickering reminiscent of hard-edge abstract painter Karl Benjamin, specifically, his "checkerboard" canvases and "V/C" paintings. But Geckler is also enamored with progressions of numbers, logic, and possibilities, which she rifles through, forward and backward, as demonstrated in Warm/Cool and Cool/Warm, works which exhibit an affinity with Josef Albers and his use of mathematical relationships to structural composition. Visually, Warm/Cool and Cool/Warm also reference Frank Stella's Double Scramble (1968), one of myriad paintings of concentric squares which Stella generated in multiple color progressions and gray scales, evoking the illusion of a double ziggurat either receding into the picture plane, on the one side, or protruding from it, on the other.

While Geckler alludes to the paradox of painting as a medium of flatness that speaks to the illusion of depth, she also embraces the zeitgeist of the digital age as the milieu in which culture increasingly exists; the manner in which she interweaves flagging tape results in a mimesis of digitized pixilation. Only the on/off signal in the abstracted digital world becomes, for Geckler, discrete squares of color, winking and flashing, on the surface of her construction. Instead of a simulacrum of the literal world, Geckler creates a concrete experience that engages physically, offering perceptual stimuli that vibrate and dance before our eyes. 2012
Andi Campognone Brings 20 Years of Artistic Leadership to MOAH

February 2nd, 2012 by Peggy Hager

The city of Lancaster has announced they are contracting with Andi Campognone to be the curator for the new Lancaster’s Museum of Art and History (MOAH). With more than 20 years of experience as a curator and arts administrator, Campognone appreciates the opportunity to contribute to the artistic expansion of Lancaster’s central corridor.

“It is exciting to work for a city that is so forward thinking that its leadership understands the power of the arts in redeveloping its community,” said Campognone. “MOAH’s staff is passionate and enthusiastic and has big plans in the coming year for both the local art community and the greater Antelope Valley.”

Brought on board near the end of 2011, Campognone’s primary responsibilities include managing the grand opening of MOAH; assisting the Lancaster Museum and Public Art Foundation in their fundraising efforts; and garnering community involvement in the emergence of what will be one of the most progressive cultural elements in the Antelope Valley region.

Andi Campognone currently fills the curator position on a contract basis, while also serving as the Cultural Arts Commissioner for the City of Pomona. Andi is committed to administering the preparation, opening and launch of MOAH. Her experience co-authoring Pomona’s Cultural Arts Master Plan, as well as contributing to the city’s Public Arts Ordinance gives her a well-rounded and versed background in arts management, which is sure to be an asset to MOAH’s development. Eventually, a full-time curator is expected to be hired to manage MOAH on an ongoing, permanent basis.

Campognone is also the owner of Pomona-based AC Projects, a gallery specializing in curatorial projects of the highest museum quality with emphasis on California’s contributions to the arts, post-war. Her previous experience includes serving as the Exhibitions Curator and Associate Director of the Riverside Art Museum, where she developed and implemented community-based programming and was instrumental in infrastructure improvements. Prior to her post with the Riverside Art Museum, Campognone functioned as the Coordinator of the Annual New Photography Exhibition at the Millard Sheets Center for the Arts for 12 years.

A member of the prestigious ArTTable organization, as well as advisory board member of the Los Angeles Art Association and Art Ltd. magazine, Campognone brings a wealth of professional knowledge and personal passion to her new role at MOAH. She has spent the past two months getting up to speed on all aspects of the new museum’s development and anticipates the grand opening will take place in May of this year. She notes the pending unveiling as a one-of-a-kind experience which will exalt key attributes in the origin and evolution of the Antelope Valley.

"We are very pleased to have someone with so much experience leading MOAH through this exciting phase of its transformation," said Ronda Perez, Director of the Parks, Recreation and Arts Department.

For more information regarding Lancaster’s Museum of Art and History, call (661) 723-6250 or email inquiries to
IE Weekly Best of the IE 2011

Andi Campognone Projects

Local champion of visual arts Andi Campognone opened AC Projects two years ago. This repeat winner has claimed the Best Art Gallery title since the category began appearing in our reader’s poll, and fittingly so. Housed in a former bank, the gallery has continued since its inception to feature artists of all mediums. (Lynn Lieu)
ARTltd Magazine March 2011
Review by Christopher Michno

Steven Poster: Still
A cinematographer whose film work includes the 2001 cult hit "Donnie Darko," Steven Poster proves himself to be a witty observer and opportunist in his recent show of photographs, titled "Still," at Andi Campognone Projects. His works mark the influence of Henri Cartier-Bresson, delighting in capturing fleeting moments, the oddly unique, and the improbably mundane as the world careens by. Employing a fluid, extemporaneous sense of composition that also characterized Cartier-Bresson's work, Poster also successfully incorporates lessons from the Pictorialist School and the Photo-Secession Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in organizing the compositional elements of his photos and in mastering the density of his prints.

Poster's photographs show a range of values, visual depth, and a tactile sensuality that relates to the richness of drawing; they are beautifully shot and lusciously printed on Hahnemüle Etching Paper. This is especially notable in works like Halloween Hollywood, in which Poster creates an air of mystery; in this nuanced photo, figures emerge from a shadowy ground and are seen processing into a brightly lit haze. This scene has the solemnity of a funereal march, washed in an otherworldly twilight, yet Halloween Hollywood also brims with celebration.

The mood of Poster's photos is alternately restive, engaging, vibrant, and pensive, with subtly concealed hits of longing. But the artist is also capable of revealing a wry wit when examining his subjects; in Carnival Booths, Poster has photographed two carnival booth attendants, who, absent customers, are bored out of their minds, but not enough to notice the photographer. He is funniest when observing folly. In Wonderland, we see a street corner with a sign that marks the intersection of Wonderland Avenue and Wonderland Park. Attached to the street post are two handwritten signs, one which reads “"Divorce" and another which reads "Wedding Guests," each pointing in a different direction. His work is an essentially humanist endeavor, exhibiting moments of reverie, as seen in Sortie, in which a young, elegantly dressed woman on the metro platform in Paris looks up, studying a sign; her momentary stillness in the surrounding bustle of the Paris metro stands in contrast to the other individuals in the photo who are blurry with motion. She is emblematic of Poster and his urge to capture the world in his lens.
ARTScene December 2010
Dean DeCocker: New Work
One doesn’t need to possess a love of aircraft or flying to appreciate the exceptional concepts and aerodynamic construction of Dean DeCocker’s sculptures. Using an array of forms and colors, most culled from planes and race cars, DeCocker uses precision and minimalist structure to create multi-dimensional works that are both elegant and playful. Black cones softly floating out on white rods, twiggy steel sprouting earth-tone circles, and clusters of striped and solid wings and propellers transport us into recognizable worlds, but which are keenly and cleanly filtered through the artist’s penchant for the parts and pieces of mobile machines. Possessing unique anatomy and hue, DeCocker’s creations take us to both the inner and outer destinations (Andi Campognone Projects Downtown Center, Pomona).
Stacy Davies

ARTScene December 2010
HATS OFF -- Collaborative works by Amy Bystedt and Sally Egan
Curated by Andi Campognone Projects

Paying artful reverence to some of the 20th Century’s great photographic masters, in “Hats Off” Amy Bystedt and Sally Egan expertly recreate a host of famous images that mirror the originals almost down to the molecular level. But imitating conceptual portraiture from the likes of Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman and Richard Avedon is not the central aim of the artists. More significant are the images they’ve chosen – John Baldessari’s “Wrong,” for example, which challenged the notion of artistic rule-making – that make their homage not just consideration of what is historically significant, but a vehicle for perpetuating such examinations. Over it all hovers the idea of what it means to recreate art by other artists – the challenge of which can be significant – together with how this mimicry might serve as a gateway through which the layman is exposed to greatness (La Sierra University, Brandstater Gallery, Riverside).

IE Weekly October 2010

Andi Campognone Projects

Unlike Morrissey, we actually love it when our friends become successful. And one of those successes is longtime local champion of the visual arts Andi Campognone, who has recently opened the doors on a brand new location for her gallery. Housed in a former bank right in the heart of the Pomona Arts Colony, we can count on Campognone to keep her space loaded with some of the coolest lookin‘ creations in the area. (JC)

Andi Campognone Projects, 300 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 629-4500,

IE WEEKLY September 23, 2010
Roland Reiss: Selections from the 1960's
by Matt Tapia

Roland Reiss is a bad ass. Or, as Andi Campognone Projects calls him, “one of Southern California’s key living artists.” His hybridization of painting and sculpture made him a cause célèbre—and suddenly rather ordinary materials like polyurethane and Plexiglas looked interesting and were suddenly elevated to rarefied heights once Pomona native Reiss got his artistic hands on them. Pushing the envelope of art during the late 1950s and 1960s became an essential feature of the objects the artist was creating; objects in which surfaces and contours and shapes became paramount and prompted deeper investigation by viewers, critics and even casual observers. There’s a lot of Reiss shows and tributes going on around the area, but the “Selections” show at Campognone Projects is showcasing distinct works such as “New World” and “Red Shift,” smooth fiberglass and resin gel coat constructions. In the end, you’ll see how Reiss was indeed a paradigm-shifter through his contributions to conceptual art and a tremendous influence on sculpture and abstract painting.
Letter from Los Angeles — Part One
Posted on 21 September 2010
LA in the fall is a joy. The air is clear. Days are comfortably warm, nights are T-shirt cool, and the galleries and museums, however battered by economic stress, seem determined to put their best foot
forward. I’ve spent most of my life disparaging LA. But now, at a riper age than when I first visited, I love LA for all the reasons I once hated it. Its relentless car culture, its celebrity-youth obsession, its obscene
displays of wealth and pervasive kitsch now seem like comforting reminders of better times. Looking at the sprawl of it all against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills, it’s easy to see the appeal. LA, despite its flaws, is a great and wondrous city.

What drew me south were three exhibits honoring Roland Reiss. As an
instructor at the University of Colorado and as a hands-on chair at Claremont Graduate University (1971 to 2001), Reiss shaped two generations of artists. At 81 he continues to work innovatively and prolifically. He recently unveiled ten new paintings from his Flora series at CGU, along with fiberglass-and-resin works from the ‘60s at Andi Campognone Projects in Pomona. A third show, also organized by Campognone, features Reiss alongside former University of Colorado students and colleagues at OBJCT Gallery (located in the space previously occupied by the Claremont Art Museum). The latter, Navigating Boulder: Connecting with Roland Reiss, includes Joe Clower, Jack Edwards, Merion Estes, Judith Hudson, Connie Jenkins, Tom Jenkins, Joan Moment, Jim Richard, Clark Richert and thenvisiting
professor William T. Wiley. I took the opportunity to bask in the
glow of these events and survey as much of the LA scene as I could over a long weekend. Another show, For Roland, at Bunny Gunner in Pomona, featured more than 300 works from CGU grads.

This I did from a base near the intersection of S. Robertson and W. Pico, a neighborhood dominated by orthodox Jews and populated with tacky (and sometimes wacky) storefront shops, most of which seem to
always be closed, Sabbath or not. For me, the scene brought to mind the Tom Waits song Eggs and Sausage. At a nearby Starbucks, actors, homeless men, students, soccer moms, business types and wi-fi moochers of all stripes could be seen ordering coffee and conversing with each other in Hebrew, Spanish, English and Farsi.

Befitting the onset of Sukkot, my own harvest was just as diverse. In addition to the Reiss events, I took in retrospectives from Arshille Gorky (MOCA @ Grand Ave.), Arte Povera pioneer Alberto Burri (Santa
Monica Art Museum), Steve Roden (Pasadena Armory) and a huge show of John Millei’s paintings (Ace Gallery). At Bergamot, we happened upon the first U.S. show of German sculptor Ewerdt Hilgemann (Samuel Freeman) and a retina-scorching exhibit of paintings from Heather Gwen Martin (Luis de Jesus), neither of whom I’d heard of previously. At the Hammer, I checked out selections from the museum’s
contemporary collection, which included head-spinning work from Mark Bradford, Llyn Foulkes, Nayland Blake and Kara Walker among others. (I’ve have more on all the above in a separate posting.)
As for Reiss, his place in the firmament of LA art isn’t always easy to locate. His most distinctive trait is mutability. It’s kept him vital as an artist and a pedagogue of legendary status for nearly 50 years. In 1991, when the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park mounted a 17-year retrospective of the autobiographical dioramas he calls
“miniatures”, Reiss had already quit sculpture for painting. In the years since, he’s reinvented himself continuously in that medium, with paintings that modulate between pure abstraction and glancing representation, and between his competing desires to make
paintings that “don’t allude to anything outside themselves” and an equally strong urge “to engage viewers directly” by purposefully
allowing “the presence of landscape” and other recognizable elements to enter into the work.

In the Flora series, realistically painted flowers float over twisted grids that vaguely allude to an urban archeological map. They sit directly on the picture plane atop intertwined ziggurats that seem to come
from everywhere and nowhere all at once. Some of the works contain buildings; others have backgrounds that appear to be littered with grit and dirt. Overall, the feeling runs from elegiac (Fleur Du Mall II, 2008)
to heraldic (Anthurium in Space, 2010). Apart from light, which has been a central concern, Reiss has never, to my knowledge, explored nature in much depth. He favors either pure abstraction or allusions to the
“built environment” rendered in pigments laced with industrial ingredients to maximize transparency and reflectivity. Thus, Flora is markedly different. Yet in another respect – the use of artificial flowers as models –
demonstrates a longstanding interest in the artifice of his immediate environment. In a floor installation called A Garden for Sally he displays 375 of those flowers, stationed upright on circular wire stands.
It’s tempting to read Flora as an ode to mortality – and, quite possibly, a bid for immortality (since flowers do resurrect each spring). Short-term, I’m betting that the 15 fiberglass-and-resin works Reiss has on view at Andi Campognone Projects will do the job sooner. In the Light-
Space and Finish Fetish movements Reiss was a pioneer. He began working with plastics and shaped fiberglass while he was in Colorado in the late ‘50s – well before hot rod-influenced aesthetics took hold in Southern California. (De Waine Valentine, for example, was a former student of Reiss’ in Colorado. But by the time Reiss relocated from
Boulder to Claremont to run CGU’s graduate program, he’d moved on to the miniatures, and so this work remained unseen in California until now.) Made between 1962 and 1969, it reflects the wide range of his experiments with convex and sometimes ragged-edged shapes that he coated with outlandish finishes: luminescent oranges, candy-apple reds, and metal-flake textures and glazes inscribed with Asian-inspired and camouflage-like forms. Newport collector Gerald Buck snapped up two of the pieces, opening the possibility that the work will turn up next fall in the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time, a traveling exhibition that will draw heavily from Buck’s collection and place Reiss’ work from this period
alongside that of Valentine, Craig Kaufman, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin
and others.

At OBJCT’s Navigating Boulder show, Reiss’ former students and
colleagues display a diverse selection of current and past works. Wiley
submits a tapestry based on his epic painting, Alchemical Lion Tortured
with Abstraction, which recently toured the U.S. as part of his Smithsonian retrospective; Reiss features one of his miniatures, Castle
of Perseverance from 1978, a send-up of minimalist interior design; Merion Estes offers a fiery, quasi-surrealist landscape built from collaged swatches of combed paint; sci-fi inspired painter/sculptor Joe Clower serves up a tin city set inside a hand-made vitrine whose supports look sturdy enough to withstand an earthquake; and Joan Moment submits two paintings that overlay op-ish circular forms against super-saturated topographical grounds. The biggest surprise was the Southern California debut of New Orleans artist Jim Richard whose work skewers homes of the rich and the tasteless. He gathers pictures from magazines and books to create electronic mash-ups. These he commits to canvas using multiple perspectives which make the scenes freakier and more claustrophobic than they probably are in real life, proving that it pays to bite the hand that feeds, provided you do it skillfully. If there’s a message embedded in all this, it’s that fierce individuality begets the same when proffered by an enlightened pedagogue who practices what he preaches. From Boulder to LA, Reiss cuts a wide swath, and so do his progeny.
ARTltd Magazine
September 2010
Claremont/Pomona: Celebrating the Legacy of Roland Reiss
by Chris Michno

Given the way that he continuously and relentlessly looks forward, it seems strange for Roland Reiss to look back. Reiss makes objects that are smart and conceptually driven. He morphs periodically--and lately, at an increasing pace--changing media while reexamining his interests. Throughout this evolution, Reiss has consistently conveyed his desire to incorporate the world of ideas and experience into his practice as an artist and as an educator. Critic/educator Chris Miles, who calls Reiss a changeling, says that Reiss sets an important example, embodying a sense of permission for contemporary artists to pursue multiple interests and multiple aesthetic codes. "He is one among many artists and educators who opened up that kind of possibility for an artistic practice which wasn't about being enslaved to a style or a look for the duration of a career," Miles says. Reiss has "maintained his curiosity and allowed himself to change over time. And he's taken the risk of putting that out there in his work."

In addressing a major shift in his early work, Reiss stated in the 1991 catalogue for his survey at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery that his move from vacuum-formed plastic work in the 1960s to his miniature tableau in the 1970s grew out of reflection and a sense of dissatisfaction with his direction. This September, Reiss will be looking back on his career again. This time, his impetus for reflection is the announcement of the Roland Reiss Endowed Chair in Art at the Claremont Graduate University (CGU). Over the weekend of September 10-12, CGU will commemorate Reiss' thirty years in the Art Department, an accomplishment which Miles, who chairs the Art Department at Cal State Long Beach, considers remarkable. "When I think about the many years that Roland spent chairing the graduate program at Claremont, it's staggering," he muses. "That he did it for so long and maintained his practice at the level of intensity and integrity that he did... I think it is fair to say that it is unparalleled."

CGU will announce the Roland Reiss Endowed Chair as a part of "Familiar Grounds: Celebrating Roland Reiss and Imagining the Art of Tomorrow," a multi-day symposium which will examine Reiss' legacy as an artist and an educator. The symposium will take place at CGU and a number of other venues in Claremont and the nearby Pomona Arts Colony. It includes a day at CGU--open studios; a panel discussion with CGU core Art faculty David Amico, Michael Brewster, Rachel Lachowicz, and David Pagel; a Q&A session with Roland Reiss and Chris Miles; and a public announcement of the Reiss Endowed Chair. A number of galleries in the area--notably, Andi Campognone Projects and Bunny Gunner in Pomona, Andi Campognone Projects/OBJCT Gallery at the Claremont Packing House, East Gallery and Peggy Phelps Gallery at CGU--will tie into the symposium with shows of Reiss" work and the work of many of the artists that he influenced over his career.

According to Danielle Segura, Director of Development for the School of Arts and Humanities at CGU, when she initially approached Reiss to discuss a public event, Reiss hesitated. Insisting that anything that happened had to be about more than just him, Reiss expressed an interest in using the creation of the Endowed Chair to promote the Art Department at CGU and engage in critical dialogue about art. Reiss suggested gathering friends, colleagues, and CGU alumni, and the idea of a symposium came into play. In the same way that Reiss seeks to encapsulate the world in his practice, Reiss' desire to open up the world to himself and to those around him has been a hallmark of Reiss' pedagogy as an educator.

In the same 1991 catalogue in which he ponders the evolution of his work, Reiss refers to himself as part of a collective intelligence. This comment provides a framework for his commitment to discourse and insistence on a certain type of decentralized democracy in his pedagogy. Max Presneill, the curator at Torrance Art Museum who organized the recent show, "Set Theory: Roland Reiss," has observed Reiss' approach to open dialogue for a number of years. While he has known of Reiss' contributions to developments in painting in the Los Angeles area, Presneill became increasingly aware that Reiss exerted as much influence through informal conversations with other artists as he did through the objects he made. Those conversations represent "a core aspect of Roland that has impressed many artists--the engagement with art itself and the art and ideas of others, peers or not," says Presneill.

The kind of critical dialogue that will take place at "Familiar Grounds" forms the fabric of Reiss' pedagogy as an educator. According to David Pagel, Reiss believes in open discussion and independent opinion, and this outlook affected the educational culture in Claremont when Roland arrived to expand the program in 1971. The things that attracted Pagel to Claremont--that it does not adhere to a particular look or style; that it is an open program which cultivates discussion and engagement with ideas; that everyone talks "across media, disciplines, genres, subjects, areas of expertise... has a great deal to do with how Roland set it up," Pagel explains.

Reiss' contribution to artistic practices matches the significance of his contribution to pedagogy. Chris Miles considers Reiss important to developments in assemblage, conceptual art, sculpture and installation, in addition to helping reinvigorate abstract painting in Southern California. "He has had an impact in multiple areas an artist, and also as an educator." In celebrating the legacy of Roland Reiss, who turns 81 this year, "Familiar Grounds" marks an important milestone in Southern California art; it promises to provide a unique look at the practice of an artist and educator who has influenced generations of artists.
IE WEEKLY May 13, 2010
Headlock and Load
Inside a San Bernardino wrestling school, only the strong survive

By: Arrissia Owen Turner

Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” pulses through the sound system. As the Rocky theme song pounds, zealous fans circle as Empire Wrestling Federation members Spandexed to the max mingle in the incongruous setting of a Pomona art gallery, Andi Campognone Projects.

The artistic element of the wrestlers that come through the ranks of Jesse Hernandez’s School of Hard Knocks is finally getting the mainstream appreciation they crave, and it’s through the lens of award-winning photographer Thomas McGovern. This past weekend, the gallery hosted a book release party with McGovern’s poetic photographs displayed.

What started as a leisurely bike ride through his new hometown, the urban sprawl known as the City of San Bernardino, turned into four years of documenting the Inland Empire wrestling scene with his camera and pen. The result is the recently published book Hard Boys + Bad Girls. McGovern’s work has hung in collections in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Library of Congress. His photos graced the pages of The Village Voice, and the book Pandemic: Facing AIDS.

The Cal State San Bernardino art professor rolled up on the funky, little storefront totally by chance. The strange noises coming from behind the school’s windows lured the storyteller in him through the doors.

So Many Times It Happens Too Fast

“I heard this ‘boom boom’ coming out of the storefront,” McGovern recalls. He stepped inside the aptly titled wrestling school. “I introduced myself as a photographer and within seconds they dragged me inside.”

For the next couple of years, McGovern captured the angst, ambition, pride and joy of the School of Hard Knocks crew. He became enthralled by the wrestlers’ fantasies of greatness and their pull-themselves-up-by-their-boot-straps mentality, their discipline, drive and sophisticated awareness of their characters’ strength mixed with sexuality.

“They express the zeitgeist of our times—sex and the obsession with fame,” McGovern says. “They are not just enmeshed in those issues, they are engaged in them . . . It might just look like kids flying at each other, but it’s not . . . There is this mythic struggle between good and evil. You get to see this beautiful story that is more Marvel Comics than Aesop’s Fables.”

Rising Up to the Challenge of Their Rival

Jesse Hernandez teaches a hybrid form of wrestling, part American and part Mexican wrestling, the latter known famously as lucha libre—Chris Jericho even looked to Hernandez for lucha libre training before heading south of the border. One thing Hernandez tells everyone—Jericho or a newbie—is to always posture for the camera, whether flash bulbs are lighting up or not.

“From the moment they step forward through the curtain, they need to be photo ready, or they could look weak,” Hernandez says. “They are always posing. It’s like bullfighting. It’s in the way they stand.”

Every picture tells a story. Most of the wrestlers come from humble backgrounds, a perfect setting for fantasies to unfold. Their day jobs range from serving in the military to a funeral home director to a nightshift convenience store manager and plenty other vocations in between.

“They get to pretend to be someone else,” Hernandez says. “And the fans get to scream and yell and get out their aggression.”

Little old ladies with walkers have been known to get vicious.

“We’re athletic actors,” says Eddie Mattson, who also wrestles as the persona Icarus Eagle. A lifelong wrestling fan, Mattson can rattle off every one of the early matches that sucked him into the world of wrestling as well as his first times in front of an audience.

“It’s fun getting to be different characters,” Mattson says. “It’s just like Al Pacino playing a different character in different movies. We use different gimmicks, different names . . . It’s just another form of entertainment.”

You Must Fight Just To Keep Them Alive

Nearly all of the Hard Knocks wrestlers can think back to the moment when, as children, wrestling took hold of their imaginations.

“It’s such an improbable dream,” McGovern says. “But they’ve always been driven by this idea that they have to work hard to achieve what they want and that everything they will earn in life they will have to earn through focus and dedication.”

The Hard Knocks gang does not reach their goals alone. Hernandez, who has worked as a professional wrestler, referee and coach for three decades, serves as their coach, mentor and protector. He’s like a father to the wrestlers, Mattson says.

“Jesse constantly nurtures the idea of them all taking each other’s well-being into account,” McGovern says. “It’s interesting this nurturing part of it, yet they’re doing their best to be brutal.”

Setting your sights on becoming a professional wrestler seems as plausible to some as, say, becoming a professional baseball player or a circus clown. The declaration doesn’t always go over so well. Detractors may even be sure to say that the pie-in-the-sky dream sounds sort of silly. But what each wrestler who makes it through the School of Hard Knocks has is a relentless reach for the stars.

“If you peel back the bravado, they’ll say, ‘Maybe I won’t make it,’” McGovern says. “They take shit from their friends. But they all believe that if you aim high, there is a chance you might have something happen for you. If you don’t aim for the top, you sure as hell are not going to get there.”

You Trade Your Passion for Glory

Some do make it though. Hernandez’s graduates have wrestled in the World Wrestling Federation, which became World Wrestling Entertainment, and the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling. Many of his students stayed with the Empire Wrestling Federation.

“Anyone who gets in my ring and starts trying it, it gets in their blood,” Hernandez says. The limelight is addictive, he says, the adrenaline intoxicating. DK Murphy, an Irish brute of a wrestler, spent time on the outside of the ring while recovering from a nearly fatal wrestling accident.

“That was the worst time of my life,” Murphy says. Once he got past worrying about actually dying from his neck injury, his obsession transitioned to getting back in the ring. The thought of not wrestling again was the most crippling part of his injury.

Watching the 2009 Mickey Rourke movie The Wrestler depicting an over-the-hill, achy has-been was a little too real, Murphy says. “I can’t watch that movie too much,” he says. It’s too close to what he knows is a possible reality since he can’t imagine ever not wrestling.

Face to Face, Out in the Heat

While the stories are made up, the physicality of the sport is real. Career-ending injuries as well as untimely deaths are not uncommon in the sport. But wrestlers are innately crowd pleasers, and they go to great lengths to work the room.

The fans drive the performances.

“Unlike theater, where there isn’t all that much direct interaction with the audience, wrestling is deeply involved with the audience,” McGovern says. “They are putting on a play with their body.” One wrestler described it to McGovern as a ballet with blood and guts.

The wrestling matches get determined by fans. If the personae don’t enthrall the crowd, they change. If spectators lose their zeal for a match, someone is pinned quickly. The twisty narrative feeds off the fervor of the fans.

“You have to have the crowd behind you, whether they are booing or cheering you on,” says the green-Spandexed Mighty Mike Mountain. He loves delving into the psychology of the crowd interaction. “We get away with being jerks, talking smack to the kids. At the end of the day, it’s all about what the people think.”

Have the Guts, Got the Glory

Some people might think the female wrestlers are basically eye candy, the requisite T&A in an overly masculine field.

The women will tell you you’re wrong.

Hurricane Havana grew up with 14 older brothers beating her black and blue. When the modeling agency she worked for asked her if she was interested in trying out for a wrestling casting call, she didn’t hesitate. “Once I started, I couldn’t live without it,” she says.

Hurricane Havana loves escaping into her tough persona and lives vicariously through her character. “It’s a relaxing time for me even though I’m getting beat up,” she says. “And it’s empowering. It teaches men there is no way to mess with tough women.”

Her rival Sexy Starrlitt’s snotty spoiled rich-girl character is tough on the outside, but the performance is a stretch from her real self. The stay-at-home mom confesses to being quite shy, and she hasn’t yet told her 4-year-old son about her moonlighting. “I don’t want him to think it’s OK to hit women,” she says. Hurricane Havana and Sexy Starrlitt both wrestle men and women.

They’re Rising Up, Straight to the Top

Hernandez instills a sense of pride in his students, men and women, which translates to other areas of their lives. And for the younger wrestlers, he encourages their parents not to let them come to practices if their grades aren’t up to snuff.

The Friar, a lucha libre-style 14-year-old wrestler, is at the mercy of his report card. To emulate his famous Mexican wrestler uncle Adonis, the Friar must hit the books. His father, Alfred Uribe, says the four years of wrestling his son has experienced boosted his confidence.

The Friar doesn’t tell his school friends about his other life in the ring, but his cousins know the deal. They had no idea he ran with such a hip crowd. “I’m impressed,” says 10-year-old Nicholas Samaniego, who attended the exhibit with his mom and brother. “He put in a lot of work.”

As admirers roam through the gallery, the wrestlers work the crowd. While they indulge fans by putting them in headlocks or threatening to smack their frappuccinos from their grips, they break character occasionally to marvel in the glamour of becoming art exhibit-worthy.

While they are used to the performance art aspect of the gig, hanging in frames and having their faces immortalized in books available through Amazon is an all-new type of high.

“It’s good for the business and good for what we do,” Mighty Mike Mountain says. “This is awesome. I’m in total shock and awe,” he says looking around at the scene, getting a little choked up. “The Mountain is moved.”

Thomas McGovern’s “Hard Boys + Bad Girls” solo exhibition at Andi Campognone Projects, 558B W. 2nd St., Pomona, (909) 629-4500;, Thru May 29. By appointment only. For more info about Inland Empire wrestling, go to or call (909) 886-5201.
ArtScene May 2010
“Hard Boys + Bad Girls” isn’t nearly as kinky as it sounds, though it’s not entirely without eroticism. The title belongs to both the show and Thomas McGovern’s new book, an exploration of a youth-dominant professional wrestling culture seen through the prism of the School of Hard Knocks in San Bernardino, the city the artist also calls home. Female wrestlers range from the fetish/bondage-clad Desire, to Sweet Candy, in a jumpsuit and pigtails, to Sexy Starrlit, who’s somewhere in between, vacillating from tough to come-hither to slightly cherubic, depending on the moment. In a marginalized sport, these young women account for the marginalized gender, and their presence is perhaps the series’ greatest revelation. They evoke a hint of roller derby, but then again something quite apart. Female pro wrestlers’ exposure has been so limited over the years that even though they’re still in the minority here, they breathe a disproportionate amount of life into the sub-cultural whole.

McGovern stumbled upon the School of Hard Knocks on a bike ride and was immediately invited into the subculture’s confines, to the extent that he became somewhat of a collaborator: many of his subjects have relied on his photographs to evaluate and in turn make alterations to their evolving personas. The collection of portraits and action shots ultimately add up to neither the ridiculous nor the sublime, but instead an elegy to muted blue-collar dreams, dreams that are heroic in scope but modest in execution.

We are inclined neither to laugh at these would-be superheroes, nor to be concerned for their well-being; they both writhe in pain and call out for attention simultaneously (though there are exceptions: in a shot of one woman being pinned by another in an outdoor ring, the victim [pinned woman] can’t quite suppress a grin, as she appears to be half-heartedly reaching her hand out for help). The theater of the School of Hard Knocks, as seen via McGovern’s lens, is devoid of the over-the-top caricatures one tends to associate with Vince McMahon’s WWE; even as their costumes are at times garish, their surroundings are decidedly less so, instantly bringing them back down to earth. Several of the portraits feature the wrestlers posing amidst their drab urban surroundings, consistently reminding us that we – and they – are a long way from the Staples Center.

The most intriguing scenes are also the most fleeting: the subculture’s fans. A large photo (36” x 48”), “Steve Masters, Master of Pain, and his #1 Fan,” features a homely woman in a white sleeveless top reaching out in rock star-like worship towards Masters who, glaring towards something off-camera – as if in a break from the action or possibly about to enter the ring – appears to be only a couple of feet away from his fan, and yet looms like a giant. In the background, a young girl looks on in glazed wonder; a young man with a hand-held video camera films from the corner of the frame just behind the #1 Fan; and another young man, a beefy youngster with what appears to be a still camera, crouches in some kind of deference behind Masters. The frame captures passionate fan-hood, but on a blue-collar scale, where the stars, though much nearer, are still just out of reach.

Another standout, an “Untitled” (2002), features no wrestlers but possibly wrestlers-to-be: four youngsters of about six or seven, three boys and a girl, who all seem rather non-committal in their approaches to wearing the authentic wrestling masks that have somehow come before them. A relatively immense teenager in below-knee-length jean shorts and a black t-shirt flanks them to the left, looking on with a complex smile that evokes pride, pleasure and perhaps just a touch of his own insecurity.

This is the cultural legacy the kids have been bequeathed, for now, and they seem to begrudgingly embrace it for a lack of any alternatives. The Inland Empire they were born into, and how their own take on the pro-wrestling subculture evolves over time, goes to the heart of “Hard Boys:” however much the sport manages to hold their interest, any fantasies they may entertain about becoming wrestling heroes will be noticeably tempered by the need to keep one foot in reality – a day job to go along with that masked hood and tights.
- Michael Shaw
ArtScene April 2010
Curiosities of the Curio is an outstanding small delight of a group show at Andi Campognone Projects in the Pomona Arts District. The exhibit is an ensemble cast of local artists featuring small, quirky pieces resembling both the scale and eccentricity of the curio cabinet’s contents from 19th century travelling shows. Carolie Parker’s map pages mounted on plaster have a sculptural rigor straight out of arte povera. Her twist is adding geopolitical concerns. The countries she has torn from the globe are countries at war that, she observed in conversation with me, “are for some reason always colored pink on the map.” Tuan Phan paints mapped surface streets and interstate highways on human forms whose torsos morph into an intense tangle of wires before their heads can develop. Susan Sironi alters flower arranging books by physically removing most of each photo in order to reveal a composite flower arrangement made of one small aspect of each photograph in the book. Denise Kraemer uses melted glass application techniques to mimic sign painting in two raw yet exquisite small wallworks. Like the curio cabinets of yore, the rewards here are in the details of this expertly crafted work. A-List gallery names like Moira Hahn, Sant Khalsa and Sandow Birk contribute small works in their signature styles that add a heavyweight art world presence Ms Campognone knows the growing Pomona scene needs. Equidistant from Orange County and the Inland Empire, Pomona has a gaggle of galleries operating as co-ops, framing shops and alternative spaces. After ten years of being on the fringe there is an established art scene here, nascent though quite fertile, like a petri dish from which one just has a feeling some great and memorable experiment or two will break out over the next few years.
-Mat Gleason
IE WEEKLY December 2009
Paradise Lost
“Edenistic Divergence” examines the human impact on perfection

By: Stacy Davies

Environment has always played a crucial role in the world of an artist—if not directly represented in a work as landscape or dwelling, then always as a filter through which any emotional representation is seen and felt. Such artistic resonances take on many forms and themes, and when that environment is in chaos, the depictions become more fantastical and heated. Such is the case with the Riverside Art Museum’s newest show, “Edenistic Divergence,” guest curated by Andi Campognone through her curatorial service, AC Projects.

Culling some of the most breathtaking and outwardly chaotic interior landscapes from artists Lisa Adams, Rebecca Niederlander, Kimber Berry and Hollis Cooper, Campognone has put together an awe-inspiring show that depicts not only our divergence from a fabled Eden of perfection, but a recreation of that utopia in relationship to outside modern forces—most specifically, as mentioned in the show’s statement, of “pollution, global warming and genetic tinkering.”

Adams’ work makes an instantly recognizable connection to these powers. Her large oil on panel pieces of landscapes are our trodden grounds—surreal lands with birds and trees, fish and flora. But the beauty of these offspring of nature is capsized by the fact that they are floating on an Earth in upheaval. In Convocation, for example, delicate yellow birds perch high on gnarled branches of a tree submerged in water and tar-like runoff from a serenely smoking volcano in the background. The sky is blue and the water (perhaps from glacial meltdown?) lovingly reflects a truth—one that has been ushered in by destruction. In Given That All Things are Equal, there isn’t even a volcano—just water—but nothing is actually in that water. Instead, images of birds and a flower float above it. Even a ghostly fish and, ironically, a water lily, won’t be tempted by the darkened sea and are instead suspended in the air.

Sculptor Rebecca Niederlander offers up a vision of environmental overgrowth that might be expected in some future Eden when the earth returns to its natural form. In There is a Nova in the Bed Next to Mine, cascades of vellum paper blossoms pour down from the sky creating a jungle of purity that eventually empties into a pool of soft, white petals. It is melting and recycling without destruction. The motif is continued in A Certain Amount of Narcissism is a Good Thing, a mobile maze of white, pink and blue electrical wires turned into whirling dervishes of energy and motion—much like the tempests we both create and fear.

This subtlety is exploded, however, by Kimber Berry’s monumental Liquid Landscape Environment—an astonishingly detailed metamorphosis of combustion and expansion that sprays up the gallery walls and then bubbles back down them, meandering into corners and filling them with electrified colors from across the spectrum. Utilizing acrylics on PVC and vinyl to create this primordial celebration of purple waves crashing and twisting greens creeping, Berry has outdone herself with this organic, other-worldly experience.

Transmuting this wild abandon into a more fixed, yet no less exciting form, Hollis Cooper’s installation, Proteus, continues the colorful ride into what appear to be cities of the cosmos—structures that are recognizable as skyscrapers of a metropolis, but that are clearly located in another dimension, perhaps, even, in a more perfect parallel world of our own. Shooting across the back walls of the gallery, the neon buildings jut into spikes and suddenly roll down into loops and curves, sending us careening up and then blasting down a warping boulevard at sonic speed. It is a world where architecture is not hindered by gravity or zoning, and the pure beauty of structure can be imagined as if nature herself had designed it—a fitting end-piece to this visionary exhibit that pays tribute to man, and his undoing.

“Edenistic Divergence” at the Riverside Art Museum, 3425 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 684-7111; Open Mon-Sat, 10AM–4PM. $2-$5. Thru Feb. 20.
IE WEEKLY November 2009
"The New Irascibles"
At the Andi Campognone Projects, Sat, Nov. 14 Thru Jan. 2
By: David Jenison

A grand opening deserves a grand exhibit, and that’s what the Andi Campognone Projects assembled for its new exhibition space in downtown Pomona’s Arts Colony. Campognone, the former associate director and exhibition curator of the Riverside Art Museum and former owner and director of the dba256 Gallery Wine Bar, debuts her new space this Saturday with the group show “The New Irascibles.” The opening exhibit pays tribute to the Irascible 18, a group of painters from the late ’40s who protested the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its apparent bias against Abstract Expressionism. Their well-publicized efforts helped abstract art and other modern methods achieve mainstream acceptance. “The New Irascibles” pays homage to this moment in art history while showing that abstract painting can still be relevant and innovative in today’s concept-driven art world. The exhibit includes works by Philip Argent, Daniel Brice, Max King Cap, Alex Couwenberg, Jimi Gleason, Robert Kingston, Andy Moses, Thomas Pathe, Roland Reiss, Greg Rose and Mark Zimmermann and a critical essay by noted art writer and critic James Scarborough.

“The New Irascibles” at Andi Campognone Projects, 558B W. Second Street, Pomona, (909) 629-4500, Grand opening reception Sat, Nov. 14, 6-9PM. Thru Jan. 2.
ArtDaily New Pomona Gallery Highlights Southern California Artists
POMONA, CA.-Downtown Pomona gallery dba256 is building on the success of its inaugural show Inland Emperors with its brilliant follow-up exhibit Liquid Light, a collection of paintings chosen to highlight the significance of Southern California artistic innovation. Featured artists include:, Lita Albuquerque, Dawn Arrowsmith, Alexander Couwenberg, Jimi Gleason, Andy Moses, Roland Reiss, Gregg Renfrow, Michel Tabori, Sharon Weiner, Patrick Wilson, and Suzan Woodruff. Shana Nys Dambrot, notable art writer, editor of “Flavor Pill Magazine,” and contributing editor to “Art Ltd Magazine” and other significant art journals, will provide the thematic essay accompanying the show.

Liquid Light was organized to honor the James Turrell installation at Pomona College and the recent Ephemeral: Explorations in Light exhibit at the Claremont Museum of Art. Gallery director Andi Campognone, who resigned earlier this year as Associate Director of the Riverside Art Museum, has chosen to build on the thematic precedence set by these other Inland Empire exhibition spaces, as well as on dba256’s ambitious and highly successful inaugural show, Inland Emperors.

Inland Emperors, whose first reception hosted over twelve hundred people, commemorated the historical impact of significant Inland Empire innovators on the LA art scene, and featured pieces from Karl Benjamin, Paul Soldner, John Divola, Alexander Couwenberg, Doug McCulloh, Sandra Rowe, Susan Rankaitis, Larry White, Robbert Flick, Tim Ernst, Thomas McGovern, and Sant Khalsa with poetry by B.H. Fairchild.

Liquid Light is a collection of engaging paintings that embody the glow, pulse, and finish of the organically Los Angeles “Light and Space” and “Finish Fetish” movements. The beauty of the work in Liquid Light soulfully suggests varying elements of the Mecca of artistic inspirations that are so characteristic of Southern California.

In looking at these abstract paintings, one senses the presence of the mountains and desert, the roar of hot rod engines and crashing ocean waves, the blur of smog and glow of sun. These are the elements that spawned the Light and Space and Finish Fetish movements¾the elements that inspired artists to create beautiful pieces of art that served as an alternative to New York’s Minimalism and brought focus and philosophical significance to the aesthetic beauty of Hollywood and Los Angeles.

dba256 is an ideal space to show California inspired work, as the Pomona gallery is approaching cultural education in an inspired way by combining two of California’s finest creative products: art and wine. dba256 is the only serious art gallery/wine bar in California, and those who visit can enjoy boutique California wines, or taste flights and micro-brews while they absorb the beauty of the shows. The gallery also displays the work of local, emerging artists, such as Sally Egan’s photography and Tom Pathe’s figurative paintings. Pathe’s work will appear in the 2007 Pacific Edition of “New American Paintings.” Liquid Light runs through December 1st.
POMONA, CA.- What distinguishes the art scene east of the 605 – okay, the 57 – is less its variety than its longevity. The Inland region is one of the cradles and incubators of California art from the inception of “hard edge” painting to the subsequent course of sculpture’s “ceramic revolution”. Inland Emperors, an exhibition celebrating this longevity and innovative artistic activity opens at dba256 Gallery September 8th and runs through October 27th. Inland Emperors is the inaugural exhibition for dba256 Gallery which is located in the heart of downtown Pomona’s Arts Colony.

Inland Emperors will feature work by internationally recognized inland region artists known for their major contributions both historically and conceptually to contemporary art. Karl Benjamin (painting), Robbert Flick (photography), Susan Rankaitis (photography) and Paul Soldner (sculpture) are all residents of Claremont. All four of which have made additional contributions in the community as leaders in art education as professors at Claremont Graduate University, University of Southern California and Scripps College respectively. Documentary photography by Sant Khalsa (San Bernardino, Chair of the Art Department of Cal State San Bernardino) will be accompanied by poetry by award winning writer B.H. Fairchild (Claremont). Thomas McGovern, also a resident and professor in San Bernardino, will present new photographic works on decorative ceramic plates. Riverside’s John Divola (University of California at Riverside, photography), Doug McCulloh (photography) and Sandra Rowe (installation) are also included in this exhibition. Larry White (Upland), long time assistant to woodworker Sam Maloof, will present new sculptural works in clay. Alta Loma resident Alexander Couwenberg’s large abstract painting on Birch panel beautifully marries process with materials. Tim Ernst of Idyllwild will present a painting of contemporary landscape. This exhibition will be accompanied by an essay by art writer/critic and Senior Curator of Riverside Art Museum, Peter Frank.

Two receptions will be held for this exhibit. The Inaugural reception will be Saturday, September, 8th 6-10pm and a second reception will be Saturday, October 13th 6-10pm. Both receptions will be during the monthly Pomona Art Walk which takes place on every second Saturday of the month.

dba256 Gallery is dedicated to presenting quality thematic based exhibitions supported by academic theses. Gallery Director, Andi Campognone plans to run the gallery much like a museum space, showing mid-career and established contemporary artists. To support emerging artists in the community, Campognone will dedicate one wall in the gallery and offer site specific installation to local artists in the small adjoining space THE PO@256 on 3rd.
Fine Art and Fine Wine in Pomona by Pat O'Brien 2007
Fine Art and Fine Wine in Pomona

10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

When dba256 Gallery opens in Pomona on Saturday, it could well be the first-of-its-kind -- a fine art gallery, offering top-end art for sale, within the comfort of a boutique wine bar.

"I've never come across anything like it," said Andi Campognone, who is opening the gallery with partner Ron Faris. "I've been in several wine bars that have art on the walls, but it's not art of museum quality, certainly not a full-blown gallery."

Campognone should know. She is formerly the associate director of the Riverside Art Museum and has worked as a curator in commercial and nonprofit sectors for 20 years. "I think we are a step ahead," said Faris, who is co-owner of VinNostro, an independent boutique wine label.

He plans to have a wine cellar with 600 handcrafted wines from single-vineyard wineries, primarily Californian. Eventually, he wants to have about 30 types of cheese, as well.

The look is upscale, sophisticated but homey. The walls are exposed brick. Huge sofas invite lingering.

"One of my complaints going to a gallery show is there is nowhere to sit," Campognone said. "We don't want it be some intimidating museum space. We have about four spots in the gallery where you can sit and enjoy the exhibition with your glass of wine."

"Inland Emperors," the inaugural exhibition, features a jaw-dropping number of artists from the region who have national, even international, reputations.

"I feel honored that my opening show would be filled with such talented and important art makers," Campognone said.

They include Karl Benjamin, whose hard-edge abstract expressionist painting is now a chapter in art history.

Benjamin's "Moon Person" and Alexander Couwenberg's "Operator Electric" caught Campognone by surprise when she saw, side-by-side, the paintings made 53 years apart but sharing a similar palette and shapes.

"You can definitely see the influence between the 1954 and 2007 paintings," she said.

Peter Frank, an art critic who writes for The Village Voice in New York and is senior curator for the Riverside Art Museum, writes in an introduction to the exhibit:

"The Inland region is one of the cradles and incubators of California art, and has been since the California idea of hip art was plein air landscape ......

"Indeed, the Inland art scene has arguably been more sophisticated for a longer time than its L.A. counterpart, even anticipating and influencing southern California models for educational and patronage structures. It was out here, after all, that a confluence of artists and critic-curator-historians came together fifty years ago to cultivate and identify a new sensibility, a 'hard-edged' response to abstract expressionism."

Other works in the exhibit include "The Death of the Heartland," a series of landscape photographs by Sant Khalsa with an audio of B.H. Fairchild reciting poetry

Thomas McGovern contributed 10 ceramic plates with black-and-white photographs reminiscent of Greco-Roman images.

There are clay sculptures by Larry White and Paul Soldner.

Doug McCulloh created a piece by doing a Google search of "Inland Empire" and selecting images.

"He has sewn them together digitally. It is a fabulous piece," Campognone said.

Sandra Rowe is making a four-piece sculptural wall installation for the show. Other works come from John Divola, Tim Ernst, Robbert Flick and Susan Rankaitis.

Campognone expects the gallery to serve both artists and collectors.

"In the whole Inland region, there isn't a high-end commercial gallery. There's certainly a great art community but not a commercial gallery to support that," she said. "I think a lot of people who live here don't realize how many important artists live in the inland region, stellar individuals who are major players."

Don't Start the Revolution Without Me by Stacy Davies 2007
If you ever have the chance to sit down with Gallery Director and co-owner of dba256 Andi Campognone as I did, be prepared to walk away with one hell of an arts education--perhaps even indoctrination into artistic and capitalist rebellion. Though Campognone could no doubt talk about patina or acrylic, or how to draw a nose, she leaves that up to the painters, woodworkers, and sculptors, instead focusing on her new gauntlet--an impassioned dedication to revitalize and uplift the struggling art community of the IE. Struggling not from lack of creativity or invention, but from lack of funding, awareness and credit. There are many pockets of these IE communities, in fact. And much of what you see of the arts outside of the IE actually came from and is currently produced here. The hell you say? Read on.

As I spoke with her at the still under construction corner gallery and wine bar in the Pomona Arts colony this past weekend (a gorgeous, hip thing, with full brick walls and black leather sofas) even I, a self-proclaimed artsy type, was astounded by how much I didn't know about artists in the IE.

I didn't know (though I wasn't very surprised to find out), for example, that there is a serious lack of cultural support available to most artists in our dusty bowl--few commercial galleries if any, and even fewer art fairs. I also didn't know (but was surprised to find out) that hardly any of the well-known working LA artists live in LA anymore--they live out here or in San Pedro, though they show their work in LA. This adds to the illusion that the LA bastion of egocentricity is the true purveyor of cutting-edge art, even though it couldn't be with such high rents. In truth, most LA commercial galleries seem to be supplying little more than market demand and decorative art these days. Besides, artists--the edgy, pushing the envelope kind-- usually lay on the outskirts of towns, at least the ones who create regardless of the latest trends. In fact, it is these folks who usually start those trends--pre-capitalist filtering.

Constructing a viable support for these creators is the dream that finally came to land for Campognone--and she stresses that her gallery is not your run-of-the-mill nonprofit. She's definitely in it to make a profit, but to do so with artistic honesty and integrity. That means she seeks out art that expresses the highest ideals in composition and form. It's not just about the image, for Campognone, it's about how that image is constructed and what it means on multiple levels. Therefore, trendy doesn't mean fly at dba256, and name artists are welcome only if they can truly make the grade--just if their agent says they do. In the gallery's inaugural show, Inland Emperors, Campognone hand-picked major and up-and-coming artists from the IE--people who actually live here, work here, and make up the burgeoning fabric of the creative scene.

Featured in the show will be uber famous Karl Benjamin, whose abstract oils sit in many public collections including the Whitney and San Francisco Museum of Art and has been adding his colorful layers of expression to the world's art scene since the 1950s. Documentary photographer Sant Khalsa, chair of the Cal State San Bernardino art department and who lives here but shows mostly in LA (including a recent exhibition at LACMA), will exhibit her Kansan landscape photos in a collaborative project featuring essays from award-winning IE writer B.H. Fairchild. UCR's John Divola also displays his famous photography and Alex Couwenberg's improvisational acrylic abstracts on the mid-century modern sensibility (now showing at Peter Blake Gallery in Laguna Beach) is a stand-out--with one particularly huge orange and brown piece on birch that really needs to be in my living room. No, really.

A host of IE artsy celebs--most who have shown multiple times around the world and have works in public collections in every major US art museum--are spotlighted as well. Scripps College's Fletcher Jones art chair Susan Rankaitis and the college's ceramic master artist Paul Soldner display their latest work, and the woodworking of Sam Maloof adds another dimension entirely to the varied lineup.

But don't get the rebellion wrong. This is neither ghetto shock art nor a grandiose fireworks spectacular. It's about depth, precision, ideas and craftsmanship. It is not "decorative" art, used merely to pretty up a room or fill space--Campognone notes you can get that stuff at the mall. This art asks you engage in a dialogue with the piece itself, to think and explore it. To come with it on a journey on its own terms. It's some of the classiest and most intriguing stuff around--and at their first show this Saturday, you can see it for yourself. Have a glass of wine, open up your brain and pour in the layers, detail and stories around you. You've been dehydrated, you see--you just didn't know it.
Big Boobs by Phil Fuller 2007
Andi Campognone isn’t the type of woman who’ll have her vision compromised. She’s a staunch advocate of free artistic expression. As the associate director of the Riverside Art Museum, she lived at peace with her ideological underpinnings as she strove to provide challenging, contemporary art to the Inland Empire. That is, until a few weeks ago when she was giving a panel discussion at the museum. Afterwards, while candidly talking about art censorship among people who had attended the talk, someone called Campognone out.

“He told me that the (Riverside Art Museum) engages in censorship, and that they had seen some works covered up with plastic bags. I was so embarrassed! I couldn’t believe it,” Campognone says.

The questionable piece, entitled “Little Debbie” and displayed in the museum’s current Material Girls exhibit (which closes Saturday) is an embroidery by New York-based artist Orly Cogan, who stitched a woman sitting on a blanket in the nude enjoying some Little Debbie cakes. While the woman’s naughty bits are clearly visible, the piece doesn’t exude sexuality so much as it tries to offer vague platitudes on the feminine body image. The Material Girls show celebrates women’s achievements in the arts, offering as many different perspectives on femininity as there are contributing artists.

“(The embroidery) shows a girl who’s dealing with her own body issues, it’s not some super detailed air-brushed porno piece or anything,” Campognone says.

Despite the fact that we live in an age where it’s acceptable to expose children to images of violence in movies and on the local TV news (remember the freeway chase ending a few years back that cut into kiddie programming on KTLA just in time for throngs of youngsters to see the guy set himself on fire, tear off his pants, then shoot himself in the head with a shotgun?), the subject matter was deemed by RAM higher-ups to be much too challenging—and much too naked—for younger children attending the museum, and was covered up with plastic bags.

Campognone recognized the sheathing as an act of blatant art censorship, and brought her concerns to the museum’s executive director, Daniel Foster, who didn’t promise her that the museum would stop censoring nudity.

“I knew that nothing was going to change, so I handed in my resignation,” Campognone says. “I guess Riverside is still too conservative to deal with progressive art.”

She was at the RAM for two years, bringing artistically and academically important works to the IE. Before Campognone’s arrival, the museum primarily housed pastoral, traditional-style works that featured a lot of landscapes—not exactly cutting-edge fare. Campognone’s vision was to turn the museum into a forum for progressive art and artistic dialogue. She also wanted to educate people on the area’s historical significance in the art world, and managed to round up exhibits that showcased important SoCal artists—especially those who worked in the IE—from various other museums and private collections.

“I wanted to show people that (the Inland Empire) is full of culture and important artistic creating,” Campognone tells the Weekly.

Although he declined an interview, Foster says in an e-mailed statement that the work was covered so that second grade students—most about 7 years old—could view the exhibit. Some of the other installments in the show deal with female sexuality and non-sexuality in less graphic terms.

Though Foster says it’s the museum’s policy to not discriminate against artists for producing questionable, provocative work, the RAM makes a special exception for field trip groups of young children. The museum doesn’t cover works automatically, but they will alter an exhibit—plastic bags and all—when they get a request (and apparently, they did). In the same e-mail, Foster calls “Little Debbie” an “important element to the overall curatorial vision and thesis of the exhibit.”

The RAM isn’t the only Riverside art venue that covers over pieces so as to not to offend the delicate sensibilities of young museum-goers (or, more accurately, their parents). Leslie Brown, a gallery coordinator at Riverside Community College, also has to hide work from children’s groups that depict people in various states of undress. They’re currently hosting a figurative exhibit with nude figures.

“Unless parents have consented, it’s a slippery slope, especially when they’re there through the public school system,” Brown says. But unlike Campognone, Brown thinks that censorship isn’t necessarily endemic to conservative Riverside, but is indicative of a larger social phenomenon.

She contends that the problem stems from sexual objectification in society. It’s a bit hypocritical to expose children to a barrage of Victoria’s Secret ads and other titillating, erotic material, yet censor the artwork that they’re allowed to see as being sexual when they aren’t. She attributes this to painting’s absence of spontaneity and expendability.

“Everything in our society is seen as potentially sexual,” says Brown. “We’re not perverts. We see the nude form as beautiful and awe-inspiring.” Her own child has been exposed to painted nudes since birth, presumably without any adverse effects.

“He knows the difference between art and pornography. I think we have it backward in the U.S.—we censor art and not pornography. How will we ever have our children see the human form as beautiful, and as a godly creation, if we cover the art and not the pornography?”

Not all galleries in the area are forced to cover their artwork in order to satiate many parents’ desire to protect their children from dealing with the complex issues that come with adulthood. The University of Riverside galleries frequently host racy, daring exhibits featuring nudity aplenty, and don’t receive complaints about their nature. Division 9 Gallery owner Cosme Cordova is also in the habit of hosting provocative exhibits, such as the sexually-themed Libido. He doesn’t hear protests about his shows, either.

“Overall, I think this community is on the conservative side,” Cordova says. “But now that we’re showcasing contemporary works here, a lot of the pieces are a little more edgy. It’s something that the community is going to have to grow into.

Campognone isn’t waiting for a mass evolution of free-thinking. She has plans to open up her own gallery in the downtown Pomona arts colony. “The city of Pomona is really opening their arms to me,” Campognone says.

As for the Riverside Arts Museum, even though they’re minus one idealistic, uncompromising associate director, they still promise to expand their contemporary exhibitions, and anticipate “more challenging programming in the future.”

Even if it has to be covered up with plastic bags.