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SANTA MONICA

Post-Modern architecture meets old Op art in the work of Allen Harrison. He makes painted wood wall reliefs. His characteristic format is a stepped pyramid shape put together with blocks of wood. They jut back and forth from the surface. Works are then painted with areas that look like stacks of chromatic paint cards which recede and advance like some illusionistic computer graphic. Some simpler formats look like an updating of the shiny ‘60s planks of John McCracken. Harrison’s work is timely and fun to see--a kind of visual xylophone--but its appeal is almost entirely to the rational side of the brain.

Old-timers will remember James Murray as a local Photo-Realist back in the ‘70s. He re-emerges with about 20 handsome landscape drawings in rich, sooty charcoal. One grandiose beach sunset has the bravura of Albert Bierstadt’s work and the whole is as romantic as Caspar David Friedrich. Formats are long and horizons low, so great skies dominate. All works are untitled but waft with strong suspicions of L.A. terrain.

Squeezing panoramic scale into small spaces gives the black drawings an intimacy that has a wonderful visionary edge like the work of Marvin Harden or Vija Celmins. Smoke belching from huge chimneys of refineries is dwarfed by nature’s clouds. Nightscapes dotted with city lights see the insignificance of humankind’s great power plants and yet know we are poisoning the atmosphere.

The work is too poetic for mere social criticism. An image of an unfinished freeway and a metal cage as tall as a royal palm speak of failed utopias and lost Edens. Murray has found rich territory. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to April 27.)

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