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Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

Two of the Coachella Valley’s top galleries—one from Palm Desert, and one from Palm Springs—will be showcasing their hottest artists at this year’s Art Palm Springs.

Formerly known as the Palm Springs Art Fair, Art Palm Springs takes place at the Palm Springs Convention Center Feb. 16-19.

Downtown Palm Springs’ Jorge Mendez Gallery will bring the paintings of Ariel Vargassal, and figurative abstractions by David Baca.

“The gallery is showing contemporary art in general, but our artists are more modern and a little edgy … (creating) artworks that are designed to influence the current tastes and opinions of a newer generation of art collectors,” Mendez said.

Vargassal is a popular artist with humorous themes, Mendez said. “Vargassal masters the hyperrealism technique with a modern, sharp and sometimes provocative approach of the subject of his paintings. His interpretation of the human body is precise and real in every aspect, from skin tone to hair, facial expressions and even eye expressions. Humans and animals become together in his latest series, Totems.”

David Baca is an artist New Mexico. “His work has a mid-century feel to it,” Mendez said. “Tension, relief and man’s presence in the landscape are of interest in his work.

Jorge Mendez Gallery will also show the works of Christian Gill, Brian Huber, Vladimir Cora, Lori LeBoy, Rafael Lopez-Ramos and Barbara Gothard. (For more on Gothard, see the accompanying story.)

Mendez said he’s delighted to take part in the growing fair. “It’s exciting to be part of such an important and sophisticated event, and it’s equally exciting to be among so many renowned galleries coming from so many different countries.”

Meanwhile, Palm Desert’s Hohmann Fine Art will present flourishing painter Kimber Berry, awarded ceramicist Laurent Craste and renowned painter Robert Dunahay. Hohmann Fine Art will also host a book-signing by talented chiaroscuro photographer Greg Gorman.

Hohmann rarely represents new artists, but the gallery made an exception for Kimber Berry, whose work was a hit at Hohmann’s booth at Art Miami.

“It was a big success, so we will feature a couple of Kimber Berry works in Palm Springs as well,” said Christian Hohmann. “She did a big installation with paint flowing off the canvas onto the floor and creeping up the ceiling. It was very impressive.”

Hohmann said ceramicist Craste recently received a big honor. “He is a Canadian artist of French descent, and his work was just selected to be on the cover of a new compendium of all the relevant international contemporary ceramic artists, The New Age of Ceramics, and he will do a book-signing at the fair during the VIP opening night.

“We will show at least one of Robert Dunahay’s new works from a brand-new series of black-and-white minimalistic abstract compositions, painted with crystalline sand. Although Robert became famous for his Palm Tree paintings and is mostly known for that, he has ventured out and had many successful, albeit lesser-known series. We will try to break that perception and show some of his more experimental work instead of the tried-and-true.

“Last but not least, Greg Gorman, the iconic Los Angeles based photographer, will be at our booth on Saturday to sign his latest book, Private Works. Gorman was one of the first openly gay photographers of his generation, and the book allows a peek behind closed doors.”

Hohmann Fine Art’s booth should be hard to miss: It will be one of the largest at Art Palm Springs.

“We feel strongly that the fair has become a highlight of our season, because it gives us an opportunity to show our local clients that we can compete and even outshine some of the important galleries from metropolitan areas around the world,” Hohmann said.

Hohmann said his goal is to get the attention of fair-goers. Given the high price points of art, clients often want to think about a piece rather than buying it on the spot.

“The fair in Palm Springs is not about selling; that, we do out of the gallery,” Hohmann said. “At the fair, we want to make a dynamic impression and evoke responses. There’s a lot of competition. We show what we feel will resonate—something to remember.”

Hohmann Fine Art is currently celebrating its 40-year anniversary; Christian Hohmann’s parents opened the gallery in Germany in 1976.

“My father’s philosophy, which we adopted for the gallery, is, simply and humbly: originality, quality, consistency and longevity. When you select art like that, there are much fewer artists to choose from, but they usually stand the test of time—and trends don’t affect them much.”

Art Palm Springs takes place at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, from Thursday, Feb. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 19. One-day passes start at $20; weekend passes start at $75. For tickets or more information, visit www.art-palmsprings.com. Above right: "David Michelak, Los Angeles, 1987" by Greg Gorman. Below: "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" by Kimber Berry.

Published in Visual Arts

Highbrows beware: Another nail is being hammered into the coffin that contains what was once deemed “fine art.”

The hammer in question: a pneumatic hammer wielded by Pascal Pierme, a mixed-media artist whose show at Hohmann Gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert has been extended until June 20.

The exhibit includes some well-executed freestanding wood sculptures. However, these works remain secondary to the visual and creative vision offered by the artist’s wall sculptures.

While each piece is unique, each sculpture shares at least one or two stylistic elements (like texture or finish), an emotional draw or a color palette with at least one other piece on display.

Like collage, Pierme’s wall sculptures are best viewed in two different ways: From a distance, the viewer can take in the entire composition; close up, the viewer can better understand the artist’s creative process, including his choice of materials, his technical expertise and the attributes used, like texture or shading.

The artist’s use of color ranges from high-gloss paint and veneers to semi-gloss, and he uses subtle shading with muted—not muddied—colors. In fact, his works tend to be more about painting than wall sculpture.

“Pierme’s works are neither paintings nor sculpture,” Hohmann points out. “They are something in between—sort of a manifestation of architecture and space.”

“Les Origines 98” is rather boring when looked at head-on: The viewer sees 11 long, thin, rectangular strips of wood hung vertically. The wall becomes the canvas, since each strip hangs at the same height above the floor, and the spacing between strips is identical. The only thing that differentiates each strip from the others is the number and varying diameters of half-circles cut out from the sides of each strip.

Five steps to the left or right of center changes the conversation from “Blah” to “Wow!” The cutout areas appear in distinctly different colors: a yellow tinged with green on the left, and light blue with gray on the right. In the Les Origines series, Pierme remains true to his Minimalist style; he embraces simplicity yet manages complexity.

“Antipodes 2” (below) dominates space and commands attention. This 6-foot-by-6-foot work is more painting than sculpture, featuring 12 unique square panels. The top and bottom rows have two square panels, while the middle two rows each have four, creating a plus sign, of sorts. The 12 squares share the same size and the same palette of subdued earth tones: light sand, reddish ochre, solid black, deep teal, dark polished granite, light tan with the grain visible, dark red blood agate, and aubergine. Pierme remains true to the Minimalist aesthetic here, while also including elements of Conceptual Art by using a grid to define the size of each square, the layout and the spacing between panels.

Over the past several years, Pierme’s aesthetic and innovative techniques have received increasing recognition and respect among both artists and collectors. “Most recently,” a Hohmann said, “a Pierme piece has been acquired by the MOCA in Atlanta.”

The work of Pascal Pierme is on display at Hohmann Fine Art, 73660 El Paseo, in Palm Desert, through Monday, June 20. For more information, call 760-346-4243, or visit www.hohmannfineart.com.

Published in Visual Arts