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Bones, Birds and Beats

Bones and birds preoccupy both San Diego artist Joyce Cutler-Shaw and L.A.-based Sarah Perry. They engage their respective osteornithologics quite differently — reflecting the fact that, until this show, they’d hardly heard of one another. Cutler-Shaw’s approach is linguistic, employing images of birds in documentary, even narrative manners; indeed, she has gone so far as to develop an alphabet of sorts from the silhouetted images of talons. As notationally centered as her work is, Cutler-Shaw is not afraid to think big; some of her paper pieces are vast, spanning the exhibition space like murals. By contrast, Perry’s work is mostly three-dimensional, and usually rather intimate. Furthermore, if Cutler-Shaw’s roots are in conceptual art, Perry’s are in assemblage. She confabulates her animal bones into unlikely objects, strange things that sit in transparent cases like votives or (when bigger) loom incongruously. Cutler-Shaw’s and Perry’s contrasting sensibilities enhance the coincidence of their closely overlapping media.

Christopher Felver’s explorations are anthropological rather than biological. Though Felver wasn’t even born when Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, et. al. were ripping up the San Francisco coffeehouses, he’s made it his mission to photographically document the Beat scene — but defined much more broadly than the postwar years when those serious boho types hit the streets. His mission is not to reconstitute the original Beat movement but to document its veterans and expand its purview. Thus, his slew of genial photo-portraits includes not just Burroughs and Corso, but also Stan Brakhage and Bruce Conner and Jay de Feo and Cathy Acker and David Amram and George Herms and Sun Ra and Karen Finley and Wavy Gravy and Ed Sanders and Lou Reed and Robert Frank and Bukowski and Baraka and Leary and Lamantia and Creeley and Codrescu and Kesey and Norman goddam Mailer and Hunter S. fuckin’ Thompson. Fifty years young, Felver insists, Beat is in every art form, in every city, and on every lip. Joyce Cutler-Shaw and Sarah Perry at USC Fisher Gallery, 823 Exposition Blvd., L.A.; Tues.–Sat., noon–5 p.m.; thru April 14. (213) 740-4561. “Christopher Felver: Beat” at Robert Berman, 2525 Michigan Ave., No. C2, Santa Monica; Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; thru March 31; closing reception with films, music and performance on Fri., March 30, 7:30 p.m. (310) 315-1971.

Joyce Cutler-Shaw, Wild Birds of L.A.

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