Sylvia Martins, a Brazilian artist based in New York and influenced by Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, chips out a halting sign-language on bright surfaces layered with oil paint and wax. Working in brick red, yellow and turquoise on large canvases, she favors leaf-like shapes, skewed geometric forms and networks of radiating lines vaguely reminiscent of South American Indian motifs. The net effect looks dated and deficient in inventive energy.
Some canvases, like “The Spider” (a hugely magnified, abstracted beastie in a web of red lines on a black ground), feature large central images. Another of Martins’ approaches involves piecing together a flat masonry of big irregular yellow and orange shapes bordered by meandering black. It would seem that the painter is still searching for a vocabulary to lift her technique into a more incisive realm.
CalArts graduate Christopher Tanner makes architecturally embellished wall-hung wooden structures and decks them out with a blitz of pattern-happy metallic paint and glitter. Ornate “found” frames, ranks of thin wooden bars and crenellated effects offer three-dimensional competition for the viewer’s attention, already befuddled by the deliberate clash of painted surfaces. There seems to be a rather slap-dash impulse behind this upbeat excess--not suggesting, as it might, a deliberate investigation of just how much visual static the brain can comfortably accommodate. (Fahey/Klein Gallery, 148 N. La Brea Ave., to Feb. 18.)