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HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS: Masterpieces you can see in La Jolla right now

‘Happy Accident Series Balloon Puppy’ (2019) by Joe Suzuki can be viewed at Little Bench Gallery.
(COURTESY)

If you want to view masterpieces from tomorrow’s Picassos to Kahlos, there’s no need to leave La Jolla. You don’t even need to wait for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) to reopen next year!

Art is happening all over The Village right now. The affluence of 92037 — a ZIP code where hundreds of hilltop mansions have thousands of walls to fill — draws world-class art dealers who exclusively rep today’s brightest up-and-coming art stars.

“I frequently hear of people flying off to other destinations to look at art,” said Nancy Linke, owner of Little Bench Art Center. “Then I mention a few of the artists I have or artists from other Village galleries and I always hear, ‘Oh really? I didn’t know that!’ ”

The Light asked 12 local art galleries to submit their most popular current piece; listed in alphabetical order.

“Abstract Painting” (2019) by Norman Muller

Morten Gallery, 1264 Prospect St. (858) 203-3616

Inspired by the work of Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo and Pedro Coronel, Mexican-born painter Norman Muller is a renowned master of acrylic abstracts. He named his La Jolla gallery after his great-grandfather, Morten Muller, who in 1875 was appointed as official painter of the Swedish Royal Court.

“Capone” (2020) by Matt Tumlinson

La Jolla Gallery, 1274 Prospect St. (858) 263-4715

“The Mugshot Series” was conceived when gallery owner Elizabeth King asked Tumlinson — who is known for working in unique mediums — to represent celebrities via acrylic paint on 9-mm bullet casings. “I had run across several artists that had precise execution of captivating materials, but only one had the added nature of highly skilled portraiture included, and this was Matt Tumlinson,” King said. “When a collector comes into my gallery and views his bullet artwork, they immediately say, ‘Wow!’ ”

“Facing Life Together” (2019) by Jonothan Mhondurohuma

Africa and Beyond, 1250 Prospect St. (858) 454-9983

The inspiration for Zimbabwe’s stone sculptures often comes from tribal myth and legend, report gallery managing members Ian and Julie Allen, and the spiritual communion with the stone itself. Carved from a single piece of black granite — its two-tone effect achieved by leaving some of the stone unpolished — this sculpture portrays the bond between these two loving souls facing life’s journey together. Zimbabwe literally translates to “house of stone.” The African country’s landscape is covered in an abundance of various rock formations.

“Gold” (1976) by Richard Allen Morris

R.B. Stevenson Gallery, 7661 Girard Ave. (858) 459-3917

This 16-inch x 20-inch acrylic-on-canvas exemplifies how Richard Allen Morris blends abstract expressionism with pop art to poke gentle fun at the art world. The 86-year-old has been a fixture on the San Diego art scene since the early 1960s, his work having been exhibited internationally and, this past summer, at MCASD’s downtown gallery in a solo show.

“Happy Accident Series Balloon Puppy” (2019) by Joe Suzuki

Little Bench Art Center, 1298 Prospect St. (858) 712-0052

This eye-popper — which makes unusual use of epoxy resin, enamel and a paint can — is the most frequent topic of conversation no matter who strolls into Little Bench, according to owner Nancy Linke, who said she was tipped off to Suzuki during a conversation she had with art critic and historian Jim Daichendt last year. “His work attracts top galleries and collectors worldwide, connecting with people through his artistic skill and savvy humor,” she said. Three other balloon puppies are currently on display at Paris’ renowned NextStreet Gallery.

“Mary at the Stove” (1993) by Patricia Patterson

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St. (858) 454-5872

Patricia Patterson’s paintings deal with ordinary life — family, friends and scenes from a typical day at home. In 1993, Athenaeum executive director Erika Torri asked Patterson, a former UC San Diego professor of art, to exhibit and she offered to paint the walls. She covered them with birds and plants and then moved on to a partition wall and painted this 73-inch x 96-inch casein-on-plaster. When the exhibit concluded, Patricia and a small crew had ‘Mary at the Stove’ removed, transported away, and the missing wall replaced with plywood.

“I can’t leave her behind,” Torri recalled her saying. Years later, Torri saw the painting on display in Escondido. “Patricia, that is my wall,” she recalled telling Patterson. “Yes, but it is my painting,” was Patterson’s response. This went on for 19 years — until Patterson told Torri she had given the painting to the Quint Gallery to be sold. Mark Quint arranged the sale and it’s adorned the wall on the Athenaeum’s stairway landing ever since.

“Mi Musa” (2018) by Orlando Agudelo-Botero

Contemporary Fine Arts Gallery, 7946 Ivanhoe Ave. (858) 551-2010

Colombia-born painter and sculptor Orlando Agudelo-Botero — the 1988 recipient of the White House Hispanic Heritage Award for the Visual Arts — is known worldwide for his focus on spirituality. This 28-inch x 18-inch x 40-inch bronze sculpture — whose title is Spanish for “my muse” — is his interpretation of a figure that first began appearing to him at three years old. The figures standing above her head represent people who have reached an understanding of their existence beyond religion.

“Ojai Tapestry” (2019) by Charles Muench

K Nathan Gallery, 7723 Fay Ave. (858) 459-3490

In the 1990s, art dealer Keith Kelman noticed all the awards artist Charles Muench was winning across the country. “At the time, I wasn’t looking for a living artist, as I specialize in the dead ones,” he said. Only recently, Kelman saw Muench on the market again and negotiated to become his exclusive dealer. “I was perusing art on Instagram and saw an outrageous painting that was by Charles,” he said. “I was going to buy it no matter what the price, so I tracked him down.”

Turns out, Muench decided to disappear in 2001, dropping all his galleries and moving from San Jose to Markleeville, California (population 210). He was living the artist’s life, painting oil-on-linen outdoor landscapes only for patrons who went through the trouble of finding him. “He was happy with that life for the last couple of decades, but got married three years ago and has a 12-year-old step-daughter,” Kelman said. “I think I got him at the perfect time, when he was feeling that maybe he should become more responsible.”

“Untitled” (2019) by Gurdeep Singh

Fresh Paint Gallery, 1020-B Prospect St. (808) 772-1384

This 48-inch-square oil-on-canvas is by Indian painter Gurdeep Singh, known in art circles for his energetic brushwork, texturing and intuitive use of color. Fresh Paint owner Deborah Williams met Singh while curating a solo show of his work in 2006 in Mumbai, India. She became an instant fan. “Gurdeep’s paintings are acts of affirmation that seem defiant, almost political,” she said.

“The Venturi Pergola” (1996) by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

La Jolla Historical Society, 780 Prospect St. (858) 459-5335

This artistic masterpiece wasn’t built as sculpture per se, but functions that way now thanks to a heroic stroke of creativity. After architect Annabelle Selldorf revealed her plans for the expansion of MCASD’s La Jolla campus in 2015, which included removing two pergolas along the museum’s former entrance, many admirers of postmodernist architecture had a conniption fit.

The pergolas, which marked and announced the museum’s former entrance, were part of a 1996 expansion that represented the only project in San Diego County designed by Venturi Scott Brown (VSB), a Philadelphia firm worshipped in architecture circles. (They emulated the pergolas originally adorning the home of La Jolla benefactor Ellen Browning Scripps, whose former home, South Moulton Villa II, will continue to sit front and center in the expanded museum’s design.)

“At 3 a.m. one morning, it occurred to me that we would salvage a fragment of that, and put it on an undeveloped terrace and make something the community can use and memorialize Venturi’s work here in La Jolla,” La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) executive director Heath Fox told the Light in 2017. In the pocket park LJHS built specifically to house the pergola, its original lettering (which reads “Contemporary Art” — a counterpart to “Museum of”), its asymmetrical 13 columns and its steel cantilever remain as VSB originally designed them.

“Vivid 20” (2018) by Orit Fuchs

L&G Projects Contemporary Art, 1111-1113 Wall St. (858) 263-4157

This 40-inch-square acrylic and oil-on-canvas comes from the multi-talented Israeli artist Orit Fuchs. A former advertising art director who creates across a range of mediums including painting, sculpture, video, knitting and photography, Fuchs was introduced to George “Theo” Theodorakos, owner of the newly opened L&G Projects Gallery, at a Miami art exhibition last year.

“Woman with Children” (2018) by Fernando Botero

Tasende Gallery, 820 Prospect St. (858) 454-3691

You can’t find the three Fernando Botero sculptures that have drawn fans to Tasende since last June. They all sold in November. But associate director Betina Tasende reports heavy buzz on this newly acquired 60-inch x 60.5-inch oil-on-canvas by the 87-year-old Colombian figurative artist, known for depicting people and figures in large, exaggerated volume.