Rousseau and Gauguin lurk behind David Settino Scott's most recent magic realist floral arrangements. Perhaps to set up some conceptual tension, Scott couches these paintings in the guise of straight botanical reportage, giving the works pseudo-scientific names, such as "Memoria Purplea-Intricarea." His works deal with mastering the language of painting as it has been understood since the Renaissance: distilling natural objects into forms with their own life, calibrating color and tooling surface effects from rich impasto to glass smooth glazes.
We're told that he is a formalist, making images that "have no narrative significance," but his current works have the unmistakable symbolic edge of his earlier Northern Renaissance nudes. Slightly off-perspectival cues and razor leaves give "Pseudotulipa Azuliana" a rapacious bite; doughy white petals isolated on an icy blue ground framed in matching carved blue wood give "Illustris Ascendens Charis" the same unspoiled, kinky allure of one of Balthus' half-clad teens.
Stephen Rubin debuts with promising abstractions piled with eccentric forms tangling and coiling in shallow spaces. He's a self-taught painter, which can be a euphemism for amateur. Rubin comes off as a genuine abstract primitive who lays down shapes and rich, strange colors in a totally intuitive, unedited way, adjusting and readjusting as he works to end with well defined, lustrous concoctions that put you in mind of fossilized tissue, fragments of ribboning tape worms or bits of debris. For an unschooled hand, these works have plenty of visual and compositional sophistication. They've also got an element of powerful gut-spilling risk no class can teach. (Koplin Gallery, 8225 1/2 Santa Monica Blvd., to March 11.)