Susan Clover’s new paintings of swimmers in desert pools aren’t really sexy, they’re sensuous. And they aren’t really about hedonism, they’re about enervated contentment. Her subjects are good-looking but not glamorous vacationers who didn’t pack their neuroses with their bathing suits. They dissipate on rubber rafts and glide smoothly through water, their forms breaking up into shimmering light and rippled abstractions.
Clover is a well-known realist who has wafted off into fantasies that failed to gel, but has consistently impressed us with her grace at portraying the human figure. In her current show of oils on paper and canvas, she proves herself an ace at congealing the glow of sun soaking into the skin and the cool refreshment of sparkling water on languid bodies. But what’s most impressive here is Clover’s knowing merger of painted form and felt emotion. The mood of well-being flows like the turquoise water, then puddles affectionately around a poolside group of youngsters who sit on the edge of innocence and sophistication. “The Group” is atypical, but it’s one of Clover’s most resonant pictures.
Concurrently, Bryn Manley, a London-trained artist with an impressive list of credits, resurfaces after several years absence from the exhibition scene. He shows oils and pastels that blend a loose, expressionistic style with odd juxtapositions of fragmented objects. His fantasy world is a place where masks, broken dolls’ heads, bones and human hands or feet occupy separate parts of the same picture, and that picture is likely to contain part of another. Sometimes there are formal or symbolic connections--as when a hand holding a peanut echoes the shape of a duck’s head , in “Temptation,” or when “Hidden Pleasure” substitutes an Oriental mask for a blotted-out face in a photograph. Most often, Manley sets us adrift with accomplished-looking art that doesn’t add up to a compelling statement. (Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, to June 30.)