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Art & Soul

William Lobdell | November 27, 2017 | Feature Features National

It's a glittering display of anniversaries, first-time exhibitions and jaw-dropping sculpture installations as we celebrate the people, places and works that have the O.C. arts scene abuzz.
Karl Unnasch, “Burnt Matchstick” (2015, fabricated steel and backlit opalescent glass), 40 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet

Whimsical sculptures light up the Newport Beach Civic Center Park.

Laguna Beach and Costa Mesa are known as an artist colony and City of the Arts respectively, but neighboring Newport Beach has kept up with the Joneses by creating and curating an impressive Civic Center sculpture garden that refreshes every few years with new larger-than-life pieces. The latest nine sculptures arrived this fall after a public poll, consultation with experts and vetting by the Arts Commission and City Council. The pieces—which include Karl Unnasch’s 40-foot-high “Burnt Matchstick” (made of steel and stained glass that’s backlit at night) and Oleg Lobykin’s “No Swimming,” (a massive aluminum shark fin)—have taken up temporary residence next to City Hall in a lush space designed by landscape architect Peter Walker. Craig Gray’s “Popsicles”—a playful pop art piece featuring giant orange, purple and red dripping desserts stacked on top of each other—finished first in the public voting. It’s not surprising, since the artist says he got his inspiration from the popular roadside Americana images of his youth. “Some art is not serious,” notes Gray. “This piece looks more at cultural icons of America and appeals to young and old alike. It takes people back to their childhood.”

Beloved marine artist Wyland makes a splash at his new exhibition at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel.

From the bluff-top perch of The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, guests can spot California gray whales on their annual trek to and from breeding grounds in Baja. So the luxury hotel on the edge of the Pacific is a natural setting for an exhibition featuring Wyland, an artist known for his iconic depictions of those awe-inspiring creatures (see his massive “Whaling Wall” murals) and marine life. Hope of the Ocean, which runs now through Jan. 4, includes 25 original oil paintings, Chinese sumi brush paintings, giclees on canvas, watercolors, a bronze sculpture and a mixed media coffee table. The exhibit was inspired by the nonprofit Wyland Foundation’s recent partnership with the United Nations Environment Program in support of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. “The ocean has been a source for awe and wonder since time began, but we’ve come to a crossroads where what we do now can make all the difference for the next 10 thousand years,” says Wyland. “I’ve always seen incredible beauty in the sea. I suppose that’s why I feel such a responsibility to ensure the health of this precious resource.”


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