Santa Monica

Some years back Daniel Douke switched from painting trompe l'oeil cardboard cartons to non-figurative canvases. These have the same alchemical yearning to turn one thing into another. In this show, Douke transforms acrylic, plastic and bondo into chameleon textures resembling everything from troweled on, whip-cream-thick finger paint, to lacquered, technicolor metal.

His earlier penchant for making paint look like actual objects may have reflected a frustrated sculptural bent. He gives this impulse full rein in works like "Incident" with its three uppermost horizontal bands of raw, frothy color and "aged metal" stakes protruding out a foot or more from a densely layered square field.

Abstract compositions caged behind faux-metal grates are so convincing they invite a touch test. Douke has so thoroughly mastered the nuts and bolts of painting that he can keep thrashing around at its frontiers. However, the works that stay with us keep the three-dimensional pyrotechnics in check, opting for pure, clear abstract emblems close in feel to Jasper Johns. In spite of considerable technical facility, too many works leave us wondering what the point is. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to March 11.)

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