The Main Museum’s summer show, “Common Ground,” pairs paintings, drawings and ceramics by Milton Davis and Vickie Uyeda — artists who are both longtime active members of the Exceptional Children’s Foundation family, despite leaving childhood behind many decades ago.
For 72 years the ECF has offered art classes and material creative support for people with special developmental needs — which includes adult courses and studio hours. Davis (b. 1949) is ECF’s record holder for longest time with the center, having spent five days a week for the last 50 years at its South L.A. and Westside art centers. For her part, Uyeda (b. 1958) has participated in the ECF Art Centers since 2004 and also spends five days a week making art.
More than a devotion to ECF, the two artists share interests in certain subject matter — landscapes especially, and pop-culture portraiture. But their styles almost could not be more diverse. Davis takes inspiration for his densely, almost obsessively patterned drawings from traditions of indigenous folk art and African textiles. Yet he uses this highly finessed and measured way of constructing his compositions to create rather magical, almost storybook images of nature and more archetypal figures like mothers and children.
Uyeda makes thickly painted, expressive and emotional paintings with dramatic and eccentric color palettes and heavily textured surfaces. Her animal portraits, especially of birds and cats, but also her portraits of John Wayne and Dennis Rodman, are energized by her obvious love of paint itself, lavished on whatever subject captures her attention, and with elements of near-abstraction that support both the story and the mystery of her vision.
The conversation between their works is a poetic one, and the opportunity to appreciate the works of such talented but unknown artists is a gift — but the exhibition itself becomes even more special when considering its context as a success story from the universe of art therapy and continuing education.
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Tip: Bring your smartphone and headphones to the museum during your visit to listen to the audio guide on-site.
The Main Museum, 114 W. Fourth St., downtown; (213) 986-8500, themainmuseum.org; Wed.-Sun., noon-7 p.m.; through Sun., Sept. 2; free.