John Sonsini's latest Neo-Expresionist paintings have a little-boy-lost quality. This is odd because the figure dominating them looks like a Mongoloid strongman. He is bare-chested and muscular, with an oversize head and sometimes missing his hands and feet.
Though this rudimentary fellow acts out tragic themes--falling down drunk among a mess of bottles, kneeling in defoliated forest, having his head pulverized by clanging bells--he doesn't enlist much sympathy. He's a pathetic character, but he seems smaller than life and not a real man but a symbol--just like the bells, trees and bottles that crowd these muddy canvases.
The emotional tone of the work is so bogus, it's impossible to tell whether Sonsini means to lampoon cornball drama or preach about human trials. "Apology," a sensitive drawing of an abashed young man, conveys genuine feeling, but it's overpowered by heavy-handed confusion. And the graphic qualities that sustained Sonsini's earlier work have vanished into a morass of purposely crude painting. (Newspace, 5241 Melrose Ave., to June 8.)