Wilshire Center

Tom Carr, a young artist based in Barcelona, Spain, engineers large and small architectural forms with blocks and strips of wood painted with lazy dribbles of bluish-white or blue-black paint. Some of the works in Carr's first American solo show are variations on a stairway theme. "Monument at Night," made (for some inexplicable reason) of partially splintered and gouged wood, is a chunky spiral of steps in which each tread diminishes in size and height as the stairway descends. "Shell" has a relentless flight of tiny stairs curling around an 11-foot-tall wooden matrix.

Other pieces, made during the artist's recent stay in Los Angeles, are open forms--like the floor piece, "Upside-Down Arch" and a nearly-12-foot-tall walk-in construction called "Wall with Passageway," defined by a pair of lanky arches and walls airily sketched in with two diamond-shaped arrangements of wood strips. The most recalcitrant work, "Dream I," is a half-hearted arc that pokes out from the wall, with little step-like notches dwindling into a skimpy, ragged promontory. Mixed-media drawings of spirals extend Carr's vocabulary into an ultra-purified, ultimately rather nebulous realm.

As far as the three-dimensional pieces are concerned, any specific romantic association the viewer might want to make with monuments or moonlight or the stuff of dreams is counteracted by the repetitive coloristic and painterly treatment of the surfaces. And yet the studiously careless way the paint is applied gives the pieces a curiously wistful quality. The idea is, perhaps, that--much as we want to do so--it is no longer possible to believe seriously in the fancifully metaphoric side of architectural form. (Jan Baum Gallery, 170 S. La Brea Ave., to March 31.)

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