Friday, March 27, 2009

James Hueter Exhibit

Using various materials including glass, mirrors, and pencil lead, James Hueter’s art is filled with the complex layering of different elements. At a current exhibit at the Claremont Museum of Art, Hueter’s impressive works are available for everyone to observe. The museum, which has not been open for very long, is small but has enough room to showcase many of Hueter’s pieces in what has been deemed “A Retrospective.” The exhibit, which will run through May 3, displays works from Hueter from each decade, dating back to the 1950s.

Hueter is a local artist from Claremont, but his paintings and drawings are worldly and broad in range. The guest curator for the exhibit, Steve Comba, brought Hueter’s work to the museum because he was inspired by the “hybrid nature of Hueter’s work, the notorious fickleness of the art market, the focused seriousness of his pursuits, and his own modest demeanor.”

One of the most striking pieces on display is a drawing entitled “Mystic Head” from 1960. It is created entirely out of small pencil strokes. When the viewer looks closely, all they can see is tiny pencil marks, but when standing across from the painting, a face comes into sight. Hueter was drawn to the form of these ‘soft drawings’ in which the “process began as an experiment involving repetitive, vertical strokes applied with gentle pressure.” These drawings (especially his “Self Portrait” from 1990) are ghostly images that have taken form from the usage of the lead in the pencil.

At the exhibit, there are works from Hueter including sculptures, acrylic paintings on wood (like “Jeff” from 1969), landscapes in oil paintings, and an entire room filled with 55 of the sketches and drawings he completed throughout his life. The sketches include rough outlines for his wood and glass designs and watercolors. Most of the images are of naked women, faces, or landscapes.

Around the 1970s, Hueter began working on a new style, using glass to create his illustrations. Creations like “Roman Woman” done in 2003 showcase reflections from mirrors and prisms to produce interactive pieces—the viewer first sees their own reflection and then proceeds to catch sight of a woman’s face drawn in the center of the work. Hueter was “initially attracted to its color, sheen, and prismatic diffusion of light.”

The museum is in the Packing House in Claremont at 536 West First Street, with admission prices at $5 for adults and free for anyone under 18. The museum offers many deals because they hope to get the community involved in the various exhibits. The first Friday of every month is free from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There are also Family Art Days, including the upcoming “Chalk Talks” in which children can experiment with pastels—the event has been inspired by Hueter’s works. For more information, visit

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Man on Wire"

In a beautifully filmed documentary, “Man on Wire” is a visual treat for any movie lover. The recent Academy Award winner for Best Documentary follows the story of Philippe Petit, a French tightrope walker who walked between the two World Trade Center towers in 1974. James Marsh’s film is a kind of love story about Petit’s dream to conquer the two towers in a coup that resulted in his arrest. The title of the film comes directly from the police report after he made the walk—the police didn’t know how to describe the stunt, so they just printed ‘man on wire.’

The film focuses on Petit and his team of friends from around the world who saw his determination and wanted to participate in the stunt. The story opens with Petit learning of the construction of the twin towers when he was a young boy—he was instantly drawn to the buildings and later decides it is his destiny to try and tightrope walk between them. In the early 70s, Petit falls in love with a woman named Anne, who continued to support his utterly dangerous lifestyle throughout the time period.

Petit first set up wires at the Notre Dame and in Australia and was arrested for both of the illegal acts. Despite these minor setbacks, Petit became even more obsessed with finding out how he could take on the twin towers. In this sense, the movie becomes a story of a heist—the audience is treated to the inside scoop on how Petit and his friends got past security and how they found the best way to get all of their heavy equipment to the top of the World Trade Center buildings.

With photographs and footage filmed from the 1970s (along with reenactments), Marsh is able to tell Petit’s life in a fantastical and yet realistic way. In a way of adding to the telling of the story, Marsh uses current interviews of the cast to get what happened in their own words. Thus, there are interviews with a much older Anne remembering those years of blindly following Petit and the other men recalling the many lengths they went through to pull off the event.

The best element of the film (besides the footage of the actual stunt) is the interviews with Petit himself. Although this stunt was completed decades ago, Petit still has a clearly evident fire and passion for what he accomplished. The man wiggles in his chair from excitement and wildly gestures while he speaks. The movie could hardly have been as entertaining without Petit’s showmanship. When they accepted the Academy Award in February, Petit came on stage and balanced the Oscar on his chin.

The most awe-inspiring moment of the film is when Petit actually is on a wire over 100 stories in the air. He balances on the wire between the two towers, dancing and lying on his back on the wire. The audience can’t help but think to themselves, “This guy must have been crazy,” but there is a magical calm in that moment when the camera captures a man finally reaching his dream. Actual footage of the event of the stunt is the most touching aspect of the movie.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Not since “The Sopranos” has there been such a realistic portrayal of life in the mob. In the recently released sub-titled independent film, “Gomorrah,” the audience is treated to a harrowing and powerful story about the many people affected by gang life in a small Italian town. The film first drew attention by winning the 2008 Grand Festival Prize at Cannes. It was later nominated for best foreign film at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Golden Globes. Although lauded by film critics, the movie truly benefits from the distressing and scary familiarity with brutality depicted by the characters portrayed.

“Gomorrah” follows the lives of several people who are drawn into the local mob, Camorra. These individuals include two gawky teenagers who are obsessed with guns and often quote lines from the movie “Scarface.” Throughout the movie they come to learn that glamour doesn’t always accompany violence. Action also centers around a young boy named Toto who discovers that the mob completely rules his neighborhood; he decides to get in on the action after realizing that real life doesn’t exist outside Camorra’s realm. There are also characters of an old man who deals with monetary transactions and thinks he is above the gang lifestyle, and a tailor who risks angering the mob by working with the Chinese immigrants living in the city. The characters are followed with close camera shots and little outside lighting, giving the feel that this is a documentary. This style allows the audience to feel like they are getting a secretive glimpse into the workings of the mob.

The film plays with sound in an inventive way. There is little music accompanying the scenes, unless it is music being played by the characters on stereos or car radios. Several scenes feature no sound at all, except for sounds like a beating heartbeat. Situations are played out on screen with little fanfare—characters are seen sitting around a table discussing the fate of some of their workers who have wronged Camorra in a seemingly calm way. There are enough scenes that display little to no action, so that when a violent shooting or beating does occur the audience is completely surprised. The film effectively shows that there is no escaping the brutality experienced by the people in the town—no scary music or buildup of instrumentals occurs. The audience is left to worry and anticipate when the next surprising act of bloodshed will happen.

The acting in “Gomorrah” is astonishingly real. Even the younger actors, like Salvatore Abruzzese, who plays Toto, accurately portray sadness and their resignation to a dangerous life. The film could easily have gone into cartoonish overacting. Scenes do require an over-the-top intensity, but the accomplished actors never retreat to hammy actions—they always maintain the emotions in a truthful way.

“Gomorrah,” reminiscent of Scorcese’s gangster dramas, is a touching film that will leave audiences thinking about it for a long time to come. The most powerful moment of the movie occurs at the very end when facts are given about the real-life Camorra gang. There were statistics about killings and the many projects the mob funds. Although the entire film is scary, the fact that these events have an element of truth gives it even more of an impact.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Armstrong Gallery

Art can be found in the strangest places. The city of Pomona might be in the news more for crime-related incidents, but the downtown area also has a bevy of sophisticated and impressive art galleries. The Armstrong Gallery, at 150 East Third Street, offers exhibits of fine-art ceramics by nationally recognized artists. Although the space is small, with only one room to present all of the work, it is a remarkable gallery. David Armstrong, who is an enthusiastic collector of ceramics, runs the space.

The current show, “Patchwork,” is an eclectic display of works by several artists well known for exploring the use of various textures. The exhibit, which will run through April 4, showcases art from Bennett Bean, Geoffrey Swindell, Peter Kuntzel, Thomas Hoadley, Bevelry Crist, and many others.

Bean created some of the most impressive pieces in the exhibit. He has created several pieces through pit-firing and painting on gold earthenware. His “Untitled Vessels” look like abalone structures, with colorful details. Bean is known for “creating complex and overlapping patterns,” which is evident in the pieces that run from the $16,000 to $24,000 range.

A current favorite on display is Steve Tobin’s art. Tobin, an artist from Pennyslvania, starts out with various materials (like clay), then places firecrackers inside the structures. He sets them off, and then uses the fragments as his pieces of art. They often look like geodes you would find in a store, but the intricate colors are inspiring.

Another artist on display at Armstrong’s is Coeleen Kiebert from Santa Cruz. She is a sculptor who works with ceramics and bronze. Part of her “Navigator Series” is in the gallery. Her pieces explore levels of enlightenment, including Bardo (or the period between this life and the next.) The artwork features ideas of how time passes, and they include remnants of actual machines, like spark plugs, a SLR camera that still works and a pair of headphones. The pieces “Sparked” and “Recorder” range from $3,200 to $4,800. Kiebert says in her artist statement that “with this work, I try to face into my own naturally impending death and seek to see it as starkly and with as much truth as possible.”

One of the most impressive pieces at Armstrong’s is Margaret Keelan’s “Red Dress, Blue Bird.” The piece, which is going for $3,900, is a ceramic piece that has been treated so that it looks exactly like wood. The doll looks creepily like an old, wooden figure you would find in an attic somewhere. Instead, the piece was crafted through a ceramic process, in which the clay is textured and stained. The faces are press molded, and the hair is taken from other dolls. Keelan says that “as I make these sculptures my mind lingers on images of Greek classical figures, those ones that been incomplete, but beautiful, or, African tribal wood sculpture and their practical purposes of honoring ancestors, and connecting with the spirit world.” Her piece surprises viewers with its authenticity.