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Steve Tobin, Hagop Hagopian

Steve Tobin, a many-faceted sculptor, began his career as a ceramist, and has returned to the earth to — well, to blow it up. Tobin fashions vessels of various sizes, details their skins, and then, instead of firing them, sets off depth charges in their bowels, practically turning them inside out and leaving a residue of glass at their cores. Of course, how the vessels exfoliate is beyond Tobin’s control, but that’s part of the beauty of the outcome. He’s certainly exhibiting no duds here; the objects thus created, whether small enough for the shelf or large enough for the floor, roil, flare, split and blister like unearthly plants during mating season, or like the abandoned pupae of dinosaur-size butterflies.

Born in Egypt, Hagop Hagopian returned to Armenia, his ancestral home, while it was still a Soviet republic. His decision to eschew Social Realist bombast for brittle, tender renditions of the local countryside cost him prominence, but endeared him to his countrymen. Hagopian’s style recasts the muted expressionism of postwar School of Paris painters as a poetically elliptical approach to what was at once entirely ordinary and politically charged imagery — a way of declaring a love for a patch of land without turning it into so many post-card views. Even Hagopian’s renditions of Mount Ararat, the touchstone of Armenian nationalism, are aloof and contemplative. Hagopian prefers to invest his passion in the most unassuming things, whether gnarled, barren trees, the roofs and sides of buildings, or stones by the side of the road.

Steve Tobin at American Museum of Ceramic Art, 340 S. Garey Ave., Pomona; Wed.-Sat., noon-5 p.m.; thru July 1. (909) 865-3146 or www.ceramicmuseum.org. Hagop Hagopian at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Thurs. to 7 p.m.), Sat.-Sun., noon-6 p.m.; thru July 2. (323) 937-4230 or www.cafam.org.

—Peter Frank


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