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Santa Monica

Swirling patches of color move with gestural force to make Diana Wong’s paintings resemble electric, underwater landscape. These abstracted depths are garishly bright. Vibrant color moves in large swathes that occasionally seem almost hallucinogenic as they reverberate with the intense colors of tropical fish.

Amid all this flash Wong’s play with pictorial space forms something of a calming undercurrent as her suggestions of deep water are countermanded by paint handling that stops the viewer right at the surface. Wong makes the paintings by spreading gobs of enamel then overpainting with thin washes of opaque acrylic that lift and separate. Washes form a much-needed cosmetic net uniting the disjointed shapes underneath.

But the power of the submerged shapes are frequently hard for Wong to contain. The thick paint distractingly ripples the illusionary surface. Color can’t hold all the happenstance in check. Only in the more sedate black and yellow diptych of the “Beyond” series with its solid arch and black side panel is there a sense of harmony between image and surface. In this painting the thick squiggles and random cracking at last find a cohesive structure to hang onto. (Merging One Gallery, 1547 6th St., to April 29.)


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