Two decks of Bicycle playing cards are strewn on the floor in the center of the gallery. The random dispersal of one deck is identical to the other. This detail takes a moment to discover since -- unlike the shelved objects -- they're not parallel to each other on the floor. Which came first?
Martin turns sculpture into a sleight of hand -- which turns out to be a pretty useful way to think about found objects. Art occupies an eloquent conceptual space, this work insists, as much as a three-dimensional one.
Marc Foxx Gallery, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 857-5571, through June 21. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.marcfoxx.com
Wonderful and bleak knowledge
The recurring character in Jon Rappleye's 10 beautifully rendered paintings on paper at the Richard Heller Gallery is a starry-eyed owl. Think of it as a shell-shocked symbol for wisdom, blissed out and traumatized.
The New Jersey-based artist's works show ravaged landscapes populated by mutant animals -- a vulture morphing into a snake, a bunny into a bullfrog. In "Merciless Beauty," an octopus wraps its tentacles around a deer's head, while reaching out to gather in nearby birds.
Rappleye paints his creatures and their bleak settings in mostly black and gray, with pale atmospheric skies spray-painted in acrid hues. Sometimes he lays the apocalyptic warnings on a bit thick, littering the ground with human skulls.
Collectively dubbed "Fantastic Planet," like the 1973 animated science fiction movie, the works are best at suggesting a world at once marvelous and ruined, wondrous and in full collapse. It's somehow fitting that the show's single sculpture of an owl sprouting antlers is cast from white vitreous china, an industrial material more commonly employed for bathroom fixtures.
Richard Heller Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-9191, through June 21. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.richardhellergallery.com
Finding joy in the painting medium
In four large, splashy paintings, Nathan Redwood animates his second solo show at Carl Berg Gallery with a peculiar liquidity. Acrylic paint as a fluid substance turns into a self-descriptive metaphor.
A swoop of blue color ends in outstretched fingers, portraying the artist's hand. A big serpentine interlace of brush strokes is held up by Dalí-esque scaffolding, while a golden loop turns into a blaring horn. Paint is pictorial architecture; color has sound.
There's something of the sorcerer's apprentice in these symphonic works -- a joyful madness expressed at the way painting's magic exerts a disobedient life of its own. Redwood seems to be happily wrestling, dancing and arguing with his practice. Amid the chaos and playful wreckage, the exuberance is disarming.
Carl Berg Gallery, 6018 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 931-6060, through June 28. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.carlberggallery.com