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From Mystery to Mysticism

Exhibit pairs photos, paintings. The results are entrancing.

August 14, 1997
LA Times
Calendar Weekend

On the face of it, the art of Mary Ellen Andrews and Bernard Stanley Hoyes, showing in the two separate galleries of Seven Sanctuaries in Sherman Oaks, would seem to veer in opposite directions.

Andrews shows photographs that, despite their generous deposits of color, adhere to a tightly controlled set of parameters and seek meaning from the mundane-ness of the everyday. Hoyes, through his unabashed paintings, emerges as an artist flamboyant in effect and mystical in expression.

And yet, in different ways, each arts puts forth ideas and images with a meditative intensity, tying them to the word-playful exhibition title, "Entrance & En-Trance."

The Doors: Andrews currently has a thing about doors. She shows them in all their humble manifestations-as metaphors for passage, as cultural emblems, and as expressive artifacts in themselves. She has been shooting them around the world, and creating Cibachrome photographs, usually framed in pairs or triptychs. This composite effect fixes our focus on a subject that is potentially banal but brimming with symbolic potential

Andrews' taste in portals jeans toward the exotic. Don't expect suburban slabs or remnants of motel Americana here. Mostly, her images document  the festive color schemes of Latin

Mary Ellen Andrews - Door

American decor, often with peeling paint and decaying wood adding to the rustic appeal These are not utilitarian doors, but hand-crafted pieces, subject to 'organic breakdown.

Differences in culture and social realities come into play with her photographs. From Haiti, we see a canary yellow door against a forest green wall, a glaring color resonance that is beautiful in a clumsy, rugged way.

Such a door serves a completely different cultural function from the graffiti-spattered, fortress-like portals in questionable NYC neighborhoods. Her gotham doorway are festooned with exaggerated cartoon bunnies or scattershot obscenities. Meanwhile, from Morocco, she shows rough, dark and asymmetrical portals, almost like cave entrances.

There is something captivating about Andrews' series. She possesses an artful subtlety and an uncanny eye-not for the type of clever, nudge-nudge ironies that crop up too often in photography, but for the understated pageantry of things taken for granted. The tacit message in these pictures seem to be that doors are a human thing, keeping things in and out, keeping us warm and keeping us guessing. These are, indeed, entrancing images, celebrating mysteries and transformations.


Rituals In Technicolor: The colors won't quit in Hoyes' work, and neither will his stylistic flair. Mysticism is never very far beneath the surface of his work, often about the power of religious faith, ritual and dance frenzy. In his composition, colors are guilty of grandstanding, and shapes can fuse to the point where realism yields to a loose definition.

The artist, an Angeleno since 1975, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and has a palette that draws from the throbbing native culture of his homeland. In 1995, his work was given a retrospective of sorts at the Watts Tower Arts Center, with the show "Journey Through the Spirit: 25 Years of Magic Real-ism."
The notion of magic realism threads through this selection of Hoyes' paintings. And there is an explicit pursuit of spiritual expression, on a level that we're unaccustomed to seeing in the typically neutral, often agnostic space of an art gallery. "In the Presence of a Tranquil God" and "Sister Mary Levitates" deal directly with issues of spiritual transcendence.

In an uncharacteristically whimsical image, "The Gift," the forbidden fruit mythology is revisited and altered, with a red Eve hand mg a curious white object to a befuddled, blue Adam.

In "Guardians," thin, semi-transparent figures float in a mysterious world-the domain of ghosts and angels. If not his best work here, the painting epitomizes Hoyes' perspective through art-work, which aims at life beyond the skins of things. Come to think of it, that's also Andrews' theme.

Mary Ellen Andrews and Bernard Stanley Hoyes, "Entrance & En-trance," through September 20 at Seven sanctuaries, 14106 Ventura Blvd. No. 105 in Sherman Oaks. Gallery hours noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday - Sunday (818) 990-7049.

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