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Standouts in Santa Monica

Olivier Culmann, Untitled (2005)

These three shows may be on display only yards from one another, but they’re light-years apart in style and sensibility. The five photographers in “Imaging L.A.” are visitors to our fair city — and country — but they get under Los Angeles’ skin just enough to come up with some pretty telling, and certainly engaging, commentary on our natural environment (Eva Castringius, documenting the L.A. Aqueduct), our urban surroundings (John Mullin’s eerily lit back alleys, Heidi Wood’s hieroglyphic billboards) and our social habits (Mare Milin, visiting her family in the San Pedro Croatian community; Olivier Culmann, watching Americans watch TV).

By contrast, Alan Sondheim and Leslie Thornton overwhelm us with the ultimate TMI installation, throwing together digital animation, videos of dancers and of a tram coursing through an unidentified European city, photographs of other dimly described locales, and vitrine after vitrine of books, found photos and all manner of documentary residue. The very incoherence of this media bath manifests its message: the failure of language and the collapse of civilization into ecstatic, even erotic entropy. The chaos of the whole allows us to indulge that much more in the pleasures of its parts.

And Ed Moses, that most sensuous of painters, reaches new heights of visual pleasure in the tapestries he’s had woven based on paintings from his “Magma” series. The glorious mud of the originals now roils and glisters with a new-found skin, supple and sparkling, and breathtakingly vibrant.

“Imaging L.A.” at the 18th Street Arts Center, 1639 18th St., Santa Monica; Mon.-Fri. (and Sat., June 17), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. thru June 23; (310) 453-3711. Alan Sondheim and Leslie Thornton at Track 16, 2525 Michigan Ave., C-1, Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., thru June 24; (310) 264-4678. Ed Moses at Bobbie Greenfield, 2525 Michigan Ave., B-6, Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., thru June 24; (310) 264-0640.

—Peter Frank


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