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La Cienega Area

The industrial purity of Jill Giegerich’s constructions is giving way to a startlingly baroque sensibility. At first, you may long for the clean-cut simplicity of the old pieces, so tactile and elegant in such unlikely materials as rubber, asphalt emulsion and cork. But with one overwrought exception, the recent work of this major young Los Angeles artist has acquired an intelligent complexity that has as much to do with an obsession with unlikely symbols as with the masterful--and now often aggressively three-dimensional--use of homely materials.

The brain of Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin--of all things--has been on Giegerich’s mind lately. In a series of 24 drawings, collectively called “Lenin’s Brain,” she plays with a broad vocabulary of images that reappear in her untitled full-scale pieces. The sculptural head wedged into a shelf-like construction, the cerebellum-like clotted mass, the stylized clouds of smoke, the floating numerals, the rope-bound column and the grand apotheosis of airborne forms all add an inscrutable mythic element to Giegerich’s basic vocabulary of Constructivist shapes.

In the three-dimensional pieces, she continues to orchestrate flat and three-dimensional materials into rich formal arrangements, dwelling on the glassy, Turkish-slipper outlines of a squat bottle or the stabbing lines of double pick-ax shapes or the tactile rightness of wafer-thin flying cork discs. Xerox blowups that reduce images to atomized black marks resembling wood-grain or snakeskin are other persistent features of these works.

But the plywood surfaces also hold real vases with peeling paint, burnt industrial-sized spools of thread and--in one immense and overly turgid end-of-civilization extravaganza--dripping lighted candelabra, burned wreaths and tumbling architectural elements. Absurdly grandiose even as an ironic gesture, this piece is just about the only dubious element in a dazzlingly fecund body of work. (Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to April 22.)

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