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La Cienega Area

Susanna Dadd paints the sublime in skies that might be borrowed from 19th-Century romantic landscapes, then packages them in heavy black frames and sinks them with lists of endangered species. A disturbing reality--set forth in the matter-of-fact style of the Vietnam Memorial--deflates the spiritually inspired concept of nature that has been a staple of American landscape painting.

In each of three large acrylics, a generous slice of sky on the upper part of the canvas is purposefully undercut by names of rare fish, insects or mollusks painted on the lower portion. Works on paper carry out the same idea in smaller scale and simpler means, while two large “Barren Landscapes” have gorgeous skies soaring above heavy wood bases.

Admirably painted though it is, this is essentially conceptual art trying its best to figure out how to deal with important themes in an age of information. Dadd has a good idea and makes a serious point clearly but she ends up with a rather schizophrenic product. The didactic lists of rare creatures appear to exist as well-intentioned justification for romantic painting. The “Barren Landscapes” work better, if only because they leave a bit more to the imagination. (Michael Kohn Gallery, 313 N. Robertson Blvd., to Oct. 7.)


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