Santa Monica

Betty Gold, who has made her home in Aspen but works and shows locally, has tooled small and outdoor-scaled abstract sculptures from flat puzzle-piece, free-form metal for a long time. In a current grouping of unpainted, maquette-sized works and one huge piece collectively called “California Suitem,” there’s some good news: She has worked in this style so long that just about every piece embodies well-thought-out design and balance. And some bad news: She’s worked in this style so long it’s hard to be intrigued.

Gold’s modus operandi still is to take a fixed area of metal (say a rectangle), score a puzzle matrix of spontaneouly conceived geometric shapes onto it, cut these out, then combine and recombine the shapes and the negative spaces created by cutting into three-dimensional sculptures. The resulting pieces are usually vertical, often anthropomorphic and tactile, like giant origami birds or androgynous, hard-edged totems. We see the airy hole created by a cut-out arc, then the actual half-circle in metal transplanted and transformed into a wing, the intimation of a profile, or a pedestal.

Concurrently shown are Howard Hersh’s paintings of spectral, expressionistic figures isolated in flame red or thick metallic blue grounds. These amorphous Everymen are pitted against perspectively shaded cones, cubes, spheres, dancing above the head of a faux naive blue man in “Trip to the Well” or locked in horizontal banding in “The Garden.” There’s a genuine effort here to plumb the subconscious for timeless symbols, like the helix and pyramid in “Heritage,” but when you tread on such hashed and rehashed ground, keen invention--definitely missing here--may serve you better than good intention. (Natoli-Ross Gallery, 2110 Broadway, to April 15.)