Wilshire Center

Viewers have waxed lyrical about Martha Alf’s refined classical views of isolated objects. To mention bright, sappy designer lilacs and stippled wall paper backgrounds in the same breath as the reigning diva of draftsmanship seems like sacrilege. Well, get ready to be surprised.

Recently Alf has done small square paintings using a stencil to model her favorite icon, the pear. She then paints the fruit chartreuse or candy-drop orange and floats it in fields that vary from teal to lilac.

Impish as these may seem, there’s a deliberate Fauve analysis of color relationships going on. We notice that the juncture of two particular colors produces painterly, bleeding oscillations, while another chromatic pairing produces the look of brittle, sharp line.

For an artist who wields a pencil like an angel, investigating the inherent structural potential of pure color must have been intriguing. A metaphysician to the bitter end though, Alf takes color combination one step further, elaborating edges until they look like parapsychological plant auras. For those that find this higher keyed Alf hard to take, there are three predictably faultless pear drawings.


Seattle artist Randy Hayes bathes his records of street life in Rome and on Times Square with a shimmery pastel palette that looks like a rainbow trout’s underbelly. He draws gypsies--a ruddy faced street kid and restless leather-clad New York youths in a theatrical light recalling Degas’ stage drawings. Hayes stalks the city’s mean streets taking photos and the resulting pastels have a staged, still-frame quality that sometimes makes them look like mere armatures for displaying drawing prowess. We believe him most when he plumbs emotional depths or palpates the city’s violent steak, as in “The Brace.” (Jan Baum, 170 S. La Brea Ave., to Feb. 27.)