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THE GALLERIES

The Valley

March 15, 1985|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

Jerry McGrath has joined the growing ranks of artists who create situations or tableaux to be photographed, instead of setting out in the world to find things that are waiting to be recorded. His ideas seem rather vague as yet, but he veers toward elegant congregations of natural and man-made debris, often coming up with intriguing pictures.

His 18 color photographs contain a hint of ritual (in "Fertility Clusters"), a whiff of decadence (in a profusion of castoffs and decay)and a stronger strain of mystery, mostly delivered through odd juxtapositions or perceptual shifts. One print uses a white picture frame to set off cherry tomatoes and fresh greens from surrounding dead vegetation. Another unites a batch of household objects strewn among fallen leaves by reducing the cropped composition to a middle range of values. The most haunting images corral the dangerous beauty of fire, contrasting the natural energy of its death force with a glittery field of broken glass or a static setup of geometric volumes.

Concurrently, Jill Sosin shows a dozen excessively dry still lifes combining three-dimensional objects with flat, printed ones. In her "Money Series," dollar bills and road maps or betting forms are backdrops for such things as eyeglasses, wallets and keys. In "Toys," plastic planes, trucks, crayons and animal crackers rest on newspaper cartoons. A couple of other works place glasses and pencils on New York Times crossword puzzles.

Whether watercolor or thinly painted oil, all these works are presented as bird's-eye views. They are meticulously painted, and Sosin makes the most of opportunities to simulate reflections or the effect of tinted glass on printed material. But once we've admired her technique and noted the cohesive subject matter, we're stuck with the fact that this art is emotionally bankrupt. (Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, to March 29.)

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