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THE GALLERIES

Downtown

April 05, 1985|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

In the three years since Santa Barbara artist Sam Erenberg last showed a major group of paintings here, he has become infected by the Neo-Expressionist epidemic. His case isn't fatal or even very disturbing because he maintains his position as a fine craftsman and thoughtful artist who knows how to wrest the most from his materials.

If the bands of color in his formal abstractions have given way to mystically charged landscapes, he controls potentially lugubrious emotion with solid structure. If his small landscape abstractions on copper or bronze foil seem uncharacteristically trivial, he still turns out elegant, authoritative works--now in oil and gold leaf on contoured wood panels. Among them are "Sun, Sky, Clouds, Rise," matching a sweep of dramatic sky-like paint with an undulating surface; "Binah," a shaggy tree image rising in the center of a flickering forest, and "Hokhmah," in which a dark, combed disc appears to spin above a square gold panel.

Concurrently, Inez Storer shows nine Expressionistic oil and mixed-media paintings on canvas or plexiglass. The most interesting of them are shipboard fantasies, juxtaposing the concrete form of an ocean liner with wispy dreams and blurry memories. You find such unexpected scenes as a winged man stretched out on a deck chair and a couple dancing on the water. The ships are solid chunks of reality, while the people are ephemeral.

There is nothing startlingly distinctive about this work, but Storer has several things going for her: an appealing light touch, a good sense of design and an affinity for the magical. The translucence of painted plexiglass seems to enhance her sensibility. (Stella Polaris Gallery, 301 Boyd St., to April 30.)

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