The ominous gray, Sovietesque kitchen in "Radioactive Cats" teems with oxide-green felines that probe and investigate every aspect of the room while an elderly couple, dressed in gray, go through the motions of their lives, unfazed. Animal installations like these and "Fox Games" (1987) and "Gathering Paradise" (1991) seem to depict a world gone seriously awry--where the earth's color knobs are being tinkered with and nature, in a mischievous form, takes over.

Some of Skoglund's photographs look dated--especially the ones that seem more typical of a fashion shoot than an art installation. The combination of spiked hair, ill-fitting suits, loud ties and wraparound shades just doesn't hold up. As a result, a few pieces like "Patients and Nurses" (1982), with its chubby floating RNs facing red-clad patients wearing germ masks and headphones, and "The Lost and Found" (1986), featuring an unfortunately dressed New Wave couple listlessly gazing away from a totaled purple car, would work perfectly as covers for a Cars or Klaus Nomi recording. Also showing is Skoglund's "Cocktail Party 1993," which consists of roughly sculptured, full-scale figures entirely encrusted in Cheese Doodles. One would think that Doodle-caked guests could get any party going--but this one is going nowhere. The figures are turned away from each other and have that lost-in-anomie quality captured in George Segal's plaster cast tableaux from the 1960s.

Playing on Skoglund's "Cocktail Party 1993" installation, the Center is sponsoring a "Count the Doodle" contest. She or he who divines how many pieces of the brilliant orange snack food are contained in the Plexiglas box stationed in the lobby wins a Sandy Skoglund tee shirt and a pair of concert tickets. Loose Ends

And the Chee-to fest, with accompanying bravura, marches on. Right on into "A Museum in the Making: Photographs From the Janssen Collection of Fine Art," at Scottsdale Center until September 10. The exhibition features photographs from art collector Stephane Janssen's numerous holdings, including Sandy Skoglund's photograph of the "Cocktail Party 1993" installation. The show is wonderfully diverse and encompasses photographic work ranging from the gorgeously textured "Loriki With Spear" (1994) and other work from Herb Ritts' "Africa" series to Dana Salvo's delicately tinted still lifes of religious altars and human remains to the mass-media deconstructionist lenticular photos of Barbara Kruger. Also included are works by Robert Stivers, Ann Sanchez, Luis Gonzales Palma, Misha Gordon, William Wegman, Todd Webb, Cindy Sherman, Stefan De Jaeger, Patrick V. Brown, James Balog, Harold Waldrum, Jeff Weiss, John D. Mercer, Herbert Lotz and Duane Michaels.

Don't miss it.
"Latin American Women Artists: 1915-1995," which opens July 8, is the debut exhibition of the new Phoenix Art Museum's Special Exhibitions Gallery--the first phase of a renovation and expansion effort that will eventually double the size of the museum. The Latin American show will include paintings, sculpture, fiber, graphics and multimedia installations by Frida Kahlo, Olga Costa, Anita Malfatti and other artists.

Good news is that admission to the show is free. PAM will not be charging entrance fees until June 1, 1996.

Speaking of pauperizing oneself through museum visitation, I spent the past couple of weeks in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Growing up in Washington, D.C., leaves one forever with a sense of ghastly moral injustice at being charged a fee for entering an art museum. The new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, is worth the $7 admission, though. Glowing with skylights, pale wood and polished granite, the museum, which opened this past January, stirred thoughts of finding a nice corner away from the guards where I could just set up housekeeping. The permanent art and design collections are incredible, with works from the old museum plus, owing to the doubled exhibition space in the new building, previously storaged works. If you do happen to be by the Bay before August 27, check out "Scream Against the Sky," a show documenting the rise of the Japanese avant-garde following World War II. Social protest art, Tokyo artists (including Yoko Ono!) who were involved with the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, and bizarre, so-called "obsessional" art, which explores in multiple media sex, madness and death, are all included in this amazing show. It'll make you gasp for air.

Many bizarre events occurred during the recent venture to earthquake territory, but none quite so earthshaking as when, as I emerged from the Tonga Room, a landmark tiki bar in the Fairmont Hotel, a thoughtful young man with a Dutch boy haircut furtively sidled up, stuffed a wad of paper into my hand, and walked away. On the paper was typed "The naval Orange is the first fruit a little child eats to receive an enlightened MIND. Teacher and Guide."

On the other side was the equally cryptic "BI-FURCATED TROUSERS! Throughout the heavily populated dense snow countries worldwide, it is necessary to utilize these Bi-furcated trousers. BILL BLASS: Ownership of a designer's clothing industry. Respect and Honor. Plenty of wisdom and understanding."

Madness, art or Zen riddle? You be the judge. I didn't see much art in L.A. because I was simply too busy rubbing elbows with superstars, including the evil police lieutenant in Pulp Fiction who assisted during the accosting of Bruce Willis in the "gimp" episode. At the end of my diminutive producer-type pal Todd's baroque explanation of just who I was witnessing, I got to glimpse the back of the bad policeman's head whisk out of Small's bar. Very intense.

And, locking into some mighty Thai oysters and sake martinis at Tommy Tang's, I saw a girl who I think I saw once on television.

And that, my friends, is just how glamorous a life can be.

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