Not surprisingly, maps and the mapping process hold a special allure for artists. The codification of social, political and topographical information into graphic form leaves itself open to exploitation by those who wish to work with both visual and conceptual stimuli. “Zoom” brings together 19 map-drunk artists from Britain and Australia as well as the U.S. Some of these cartographic infatuates actually invent maps, proposing unlikely places or absurd relationships (spatial and otherwise); more turn existing maps into impossible objects and delirious pictures. Some paint, others draw, still others cut up, and yet others print out. Several concentrate on roads, slicing routes from maps until nothing’s left but lacy skeins. A few conjure old-style maps, replete with elaborate illustrations and garrulous annotations. All, however, revel in the dense richness of the map format. Notable in this number are Christian Nold, Nina Katchadourian, Lordy Rodriguez, Joyce Kozloff, Matthew Picton, Doug Beube, Linda Ekstrom, Louisa Bufardeci and Robert Walden.
The 12 artists in “Code Switching” — most from San Francisco — answer in their various ways (and various media) to the meaning of the show’s title: the use of two or more languages in one-to-one communication. Think Spanglish. But the gabachos here meld not only tongues (English and Arabic, for instance) but substances, disciplines and levels of mediumistic intervention. Think text-and-photo. Or sound-and-image. Or handwork and electronics. Or paint and candy. Or male and female. The leaps between substances within the artworks are almost as extravagant as the leaps between the artworks themselves. This is not just an eclectic show of objects, but a show of eclectic objects. Comprende? “Zoom” at Arena 1, 3026 Airport Ave., Santa Monica, Wed.-Sat. noon-6 p.m.; thru Sept. 8. (310) 397-7449. “Code Switching” at Red House, 1224 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, Wed.-Fri. noon-5 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (310) 452-3264.