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Arts : The art capades 

Gimme something to believe in ...

Hotfooting it to art show after art show this month in search of that elusive spark of artistic wonder, I’ve generally been confronted by all-too-human attempts at illustrating the everyday. Not that that can’t be fun, too, but a couple of shows have captured an artist’s fleeting glimpse of the divine and are particularly worth the pilgrimage.

Orozco through a lens darkly, at the Tobin building.

For Gordy Grundy, viceroy of a society called the Fellowship of Fortuna, his moment of revelation came with a purported visitation by the Goddess of Fortuna, formerly known as the Roman Goddess of Chance. Henceforth, Grundy’s artistic mission is to spread the word of the Fellowship, which exists in lieu of a more reasoned religion. It doesn’t hurt that his apparition happened to look like Angelina Jolie.

Grundy’s latest exhibition inhabits a Westside independent art space, formerly known as the house of Director Frank Leal’s grandmother `read a review of Grundy’s 2005 Sala Diaz show, “Do ya feel lucky?” September 22-28, 2005, at`. In its newest incarnation, Arbor Art House is an up-and-coming venue and Grundy’s Fortuna: Vision Quest demonstrates how far its coordinators are willing to delve into the bizarre to hone their avant-garde chops. Upon entering the first gallery, viewers are confronted by mannequins standing in a pyre wearing black hoods, and a room ringed with matches that mingle with kindling. On the wall, matching polo shirts are stitched with the names of various religions — Christianity rather than Christian Dior; Buddhism rather than Betsy Johnson. According to the Fellowship, claiming Sunni versus Shia affiliation is just a fashion choice. Not that we’d be very successful at training fashion police on the ground.

The Fellowship isn’t countercultural, as a requisite trip through its website will show. It simply says, in essence, “Go forth, have fun, believe in something, but don’t try to know the unknowable.” In this way, it hopes to spread world peace. In the meantime, enjoy Grundy’s fashion designs, which are currently in production, according to one of the evening’s models. Fashion accessories bearing the double “F” of the Fellowship are also for sale. The show is over-the-top and its connection between fashion and zealous faith is a bit tenuous, but I appreciate the fact that it deflates fanaticism. I also love its return to a goddess society, no matter how tongue-in-cheek.

Fortuna: Vision Quest
By appt.
Through Aug 30
Arbor Art House
837 Arbor Place

A Place In Time
By appt.
Through Aug 20
Tobin Building
114 Camp Street

Across town at another, more moneyed, address, the CAMPstreet lofts rest atop a first-floor gallery space that features A Place in Time, curated by Claudia Álvarez Arozqueta of Mexico City. With work by seven Mexican-born artists, the show trains contemporary eyes on places, artifacts, and iconic artworks from the ancient and recent past.

Gonzalo Lebrija’s large photograph captures and distorts José Clemente Orozco’s murals in the central dome of the Instituto Cultural Cabañas. Orozco’s 1938 cycle is titled “El Hombre de Fuego” (Man of Fire) and as Lebrija presents it, Orozco’s figures seem to writhe in flames. Rather than merely aiming his camera upwards, the artist parked a lipstick red Ferrari 360 below the dome and photographed the paintings’ reflections in the curved steel. Tempestuous figures arc across the front seat and bend over the hood, raising questions about class struggle, altered perception, and the modern industrial lens that covers our eyes.

Paulina Lasa’s “The Asphalt Virgin” is a collaboration between the artist and documentary filmmaker Fernando Frias. The film might be considered a cruel hoax if it weren’t so humorously telling of our irrational need to believe in something. Using a paper screen, Lasa spray-painted an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a street in Mexico City. For a week, traffic stopped, helicopters buzzed overhead, religious dignitaries claimed healing miracles, and locals stood in religious awe. When representatives produced the artist’s screen, the flip side was tragic.

While it’s easy to chuckle and consider such “miracles” superstitious and anti-modern, it’s really not that different from my own search for an artistic sacred moment, the kind that used to send chills up my spine from a particular lick of paint or a well-lighted sculpture. Where’s my Angelina Jolie?

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