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There is a dazzling exhibit of recent...

There is a dazzling exhibit of recent paintings by Renee Petropoulos at the Patty Aande Gallery (660 9th Ave.). It is a museum-quality show of works varying in size but not in quality. All are successful; it would take a Solomon to categorize them as “good,” “better” and “best.”

Although she is only 33, Petropoulos has a mature artistic vision. She has degrees in art history and in painting. She has traveled widely, especially in Third World countries, whose influences appear in her paintings. She is, gallery owner Aande said, “a vacuum cleaner for knowledge.”

Petropoulos uses a full palette of brilliant colors and strong readable forms generally floating, some almost discernibly moving, in ambiguously deep-shallow atmospheres. There is no equivocation about the presence of the works, although their meanings are elusive.

The artist’s vocabulary of forms includes stylized, cage-like structures, button shapes that may look like wheels and even faces, mountains, canopies, hats, flowers, bowls and domes. Calligraphic forms like the Greek letter sigma also appear in underpainting. In several works, huge realistic images of what Petropoulos calls “mouths in a state of prayer” appear.

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Although we may identify the forms, especially after having received some guidance, Petropoulos uses them abstractly as elements in elegant but assertive compositions.

In Untitled 1986 (oil on wood), one of the simplest, large works (5 by 7 feet), a blue “dome” hovers over a red “bowl,” like a pair of lotuses in a blue-green field. Shadow images of a sigma and a roof-like form lurk on the left-hand side and a cryptic symbol (Arabic? mathematical?) emerges faintly on the right. The painting suggests experience of the occult.

In one of the smallest works, “The Abecedarians No. 18,” (12 by 9 inches) a green birdcage-like structure pushes against the edges of the red field that contains it with almost palpable energy. It is a totally engaging work of art.

Petropoulos’ works would be ever satisfying to live not only for their physical beauties but also for their always provocative and unsolvable mysteries.

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The exhibit continues through May 31.

Gary Hansmann is obsessed with the idea of being an artist.

Rogue Graphics (3805 Ray St.) is exhibiting a large group of his monotypes--unique prints from surfaces on which he has painted images--spanning the last six years.

His figures are often sinister--men with snout-like noses, for example. His palette is funereal. “Portraits of Friends,” however, is gentler in character and “Mask of the Poet” is almost lyrically colorful.

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More characteristic is “Whispers in the Night,” the image of a nude woman with a seductive body but the face of death.

“The Illusion,” which pairs a death mask with a text, is revelatory. It reads, in part: “San Diego is death to a poet, to an artist, a desert without water, a place to die, a graveyard of the easy way, the illusion. It is death to me. I am an animal eating myself for lack of other food. The rage is killing me. The gentleness is killing me.”

Hansmann’s visual poetry of pessimism is strong stuff and unforgettable.

The exhibit continues through May 30.

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An exhibit of new furniture, sponsored by the Ilan Lael Foundation and San Diego Home-Garden Magazine, is on view at an innovative florist, Snyder’s (825 4th Ave.).

Often--too often--designers become so engaged with the beauty of form that they forget the condition of utility that is the reason for making furniture.

The best design award, however, went, sensibly, to David Fobes, who entered an elegantly classic, high-backed dining chair with one small but crucial decorative element--a two-inch-square hole about head level.

Tim Johnston also received a prize for an ingenious cabinet that resembles a jet engine. “ ’59 Eldo Cabinet,” a likeness of the tail fin of a vintage Cadillac Eldorado, does not offer much storage space, but it is an attention-getter.

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Fred Lanz entered a handsome chest of drawers, but there is no ostensible way to open them, unless you have very long fingernails.

Robert Niedringhaus’ “Drawer Cabinet for Mondrian” expresses the same aesthetic, but is usable. The drawers open easily.

There are many handsome but unfunctional chairs: the seat is not big enough, the seat is cold metal, or the seat pinches.

Judy Cassidy entered an abstractly beautiful serving tray made of mixed woods. But objects would, in the absence of a raised edge, easily slide off it.

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Two works by Del R. Longanecker imitate older styles. Nothing could be worse! They are not contemporary and do not belong in this exhibit.

The exhibit continues through Wednesday.


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