A set of wall-hung, disc-shaped sculptures by Polly Apfelbaum exposes the power of patterning and design. Various-size holes perforate each disc to form simple geometric patterns; as a result, it becomes virtually impossible to see the discs as anything other than faces. Apfelbaum taps into the forces of kinship and the almost instinctive sense of comfort we can derive from visual order. Alfred Jensen, on the other hand, uses a similar language of patterning to produce oil paintings that resist this very kind of resolution. The only "conventional" art in the show, Jensen's work is also the oldest, dating back to the '60s, but this obscure painter's color-coded charts and maplike compositions perfectly drive home the linkages between decoration, design and human reason. One painting repeats the cardinal points of the compass on a large checkerboard pattern. A sprinkling of small arrows then creates an evasive visual circuit that stubbornly eludes the grasp of the mind as much as it eludes the grasp of the eye. What an artist like Jensen demonstrates is that art can be challenging, critical and difficult, but still be decorative. Like all the artists in "Homemade Champagne," he also shows how art can elevate technique, satisfy taste, beautify environments and still be art.
At the CLAREMONT GRADUATE UNIVERSITY Peggy Phelps Gallery and East Gallery
251 E. 10th St., Claremont
Through February 14