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ART REVIEWS

SPEICAL TO THE TIMES

Approachable Abstractions by David Lloyd

The fluid, dynamic shapes of David Lloyd’s abstract paintings are about the most energetic, entertaining and playful romps to demystify abstraction since Elizabeth Murray. Unlike Murray, however, Lloyd’s works draw their approachability not from Pop cartoonishness, but from the slippery, organic plasticity of nature. Specifically, from the body’s internal plumbing, cellular division and other shapely allusions to things that swallow or divide as an expression of life.

Lloyd’s undulating wooden panels form a playful, flat ground which the artist lovingly covers with thin skins of dry, transparent color in odd, organic shapes. These colorful patches of free form, organic shape seem to wage a steady war of absorption with each other--an exuberance cheerfully held in check by the hard-edged strictness of the painting’s overall shape. That strictness is a different, more integrated kind of discipline than the neutral control asserted by a painting’s usual square or rectangular format. Quite simply the edges and the image don’t compete, they affect one another.

Even when Lloyd goes geometric, as in his large, untitled, eight-sided swipe at a chemical diagram harboring a vibrant red amoeba, there is enough torquing imbalance to the overall painting to keep it alive. And that liveliness is essential. The rampant formal flux, based on a kind of physiological analogy, breaths life into the abstractions so they seem comfortably personal, instead of like sterile intellectual or painterly gambits.

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* Margo Leavin Gallery, 812 N. Robertson Blvd., to March 23 .

Yamaguchi’s Evolution: Takako Yamaguchi’s paintings have evolved remarkably over the past nine years. From gilded, richly patterned, architecturally based, screen-like works that wedded Japanese and Western art’s notions of space and landscape, they progressed to equally sumptuous, vaguely Oriental stylized landscape with appropriated Renaissance figures and architecture. Always underlying the images were hints of symbolic meaning, but the images were so ornate, and the art historical juxtapositions of style so appealingly rich, that any other content seemed secondary.

That certainly cannot be said for Yamaguchi’s latest images of landscape and figure. These glowing oil and bronze leaf pages and paintings are like illuminated manuscripts espousing a very specific cosmic order. Clear to the point of being outright illustrations, they shun much of the earlier decorative pattern-for-its-own-sake design in favor of more naive representations of nature and symbol. The results are still lively, bright and beautifully painted but they are also annoyingly didactic.

What appeared in earlier images as vague but still haunting hints of fertile life cycles have now solidified into easy to read texts complete with whirling planets, mating chromosomes, and volcanoes uniting stratified evolution. Kind of an epistle on harmonic evolution giving a glorified cross section of all matter. It may have been difficult in earlier paintings to get past the opulence and stylistic bombardment to unearth the content, but all the work has been done in these images.

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There is much here that recalls the glowing, writhing fecundity of Henrietta Shore’s plants and shells with all their implicit philosophy of sexuality and life. But Yamaguchi’s narrative directness also hearkens back to the art of the Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, whose frescoes were aimed at educating an illiterate peasantry. If this is an attempt at making the content of the paintings unavoidably clear, it succeeds; but much of the richness and poetry has been lost by stripping the allusions down to their this-means-that underwear.

* Jan Baum Gallery, 170 S. La Brea Ave., to March 30.

Weisberg’s Family Album: Ruth Weisberg has always been literal in her paintings. Her images reflect her life, her studio, her ancestors, her children, her mentors. The result is often a painterly montage of single framed pictures of artist and family which seamlessly overlap past and present in thin washes of chiaroscuro light and dark. In their transparent faintness they are dreamy blends that mix the clarity of sharply drawn figures with the vagueness of unspecific time and place.

But if figures are the touchstone of reality in Weisberg’s paintings, and therefore largely inaccessible to those unfamiliar with the family album, place has long been one of her most interesting allusions. In her current paintings and monotypes it is the artist’s studio that takes center stage. The solidity of the studio’s walls and furniture is a hard and fast reality laid siege by materializing visions and stray thoughts. The pristine walls bleed recollections of old life model set ups and larger than life dangers in the guise of stalking wolves and churning revolutionary scenarios.

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Taking the studio as metaphor for the self allows the artist to deal with the psychological stress of solitary work. “Giacometti Alone,” a stunning drawing in yellow and black oil, wax and graphite on unstretched canvas, speaks with real force about the accumulation and emptiness of an artist’s life. That’s an edge she explores even more personally in the clutter of the large charcoal and graphite on canvas work, “NOW, THEN.” It’s a strong painting, with its sprawling formal structure which layers the artist almost fearfully between the tools of the trade, a blank canvas and a backdrop of art history. It may be a literal illustration of a mental position, but the strength of the composition and scale make it work.

Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, 357 N. La Brea Ave. , to March 30.


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