La Cienega Area

The gospel according to Ben Benson and Elsa Rady is that art is clean, art is fine, art is a fragile thing that comes to life on a wispy breath and threatens to fall apart if you sneeze.

Benson, a Chicago-area artist, presents himself as a poetic version of Ben Nicholson in tiny paintings and collages that explore Cubist form and shallow space. Whether drawing a nude, painting a still life or orchestrating rectangles, Benson strives for a vulnerable sort of perfection that filters life to an essence but doesn't entirely remove its zest.

Rady's untouchable porcelain vessels are better known here, but her current show places this work squarely in the tradition of still life. Single pots, pairs and trios--fashioned as tall vases that narrow to slim stems or as flared, jagged-edged forms--are presented on anodized aluminum shelves and dramatically shadowed. They read both as sculpture and as paintings, with each vessel glazed in a solid color and carefully placed within a composition. We admire the level of control while wishing the work didn't look so much like decor. (Janus Gallery, 8000 Melrose Ave., to Feb. 13.)

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