"Two From New York" pairs artists whose views of landscape are fixed on opposite ends of contemporary painting's spectrum. Deborah Kass sets her sights on rocks in water and interprets them as massive, sculptural hunks standing firm against waves, waterfalls and river currents. She defines both fluid and rigid forms in wide, decisive strokes that lend a dramatic sense of movement and build tension through conflicting directions. In "Long Fall," white water plunges straight down a vertical drop and branches out like trees against the precipice. Various horizontal compositions of boulders in teeming seas play out convincing power struggles. Kass' painting is up to date in its Expressionistic forcefulness, but it is rooted in the Romanticists' reverence and fear of nature.
Fontaine Dunn takes a more contemplative view of the universe in formal abstractions. The only clear references to nature are spherical suns and brushy passages that could relate to vegetation or bodies of water. In each of the seven works on view, she stacks up five long, horizontal sections in a square, with spaces between the panels. Each segment is distinctly different in color and composition. Together, they refer to strata of the heavens, earth and an underworld. "Earthly Delights," for example, descends from a metallic gold strip with a red circle in its center to a bright blue panel with a diamond pattern, a calligraphic segment and two painterly pieces.
At first glance, these orchestrations seem overly abrupt and arbitrary, but part of the problem is that each grouping needs a larger amount of space than is possible to allocate in a small gallery. Taken slowly, one at a time, the multipart paintings take on unexpected relationships and reverberate as a single presence. (TLK Gallery, 611 Anton Blvd., Suite 120, Costa Mesa, to May 25.)