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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

May 31, 1985|WILLIAM WILSON

Two artists who fool the eye and bend the mind exhibit their wares with mixed results on the up side. Dan Douke shows a dozen large paintings that look for all the world like big weathered hunks of sheet steel. He's gone to so much trouble that edges still bear convincing saw marks and welding seams. Surfaces are pocked and rusty. Paint peels and blisters. A piece called "Kudzu" seems to bear remnants of a cartoony poster pleading, "Secure it before it's too late . . . Protect . . ." The slogan is like a lumpish joke selling the painting.

All the same, this is probably Douke's most interesting work to date. Previous essays in bogus torn corrugated cardboard left one wondering what the point was. By now the artist has such a command of his medium that his most ambitious work, "Cobb," is also his most successful. He can call his shots.

Color is pumped up a little too high, as if purposely tipping us off that these things are the result of artifice. They set the mind caroming from vintage trompe l'oeil paintings by John Frederick Peto to their modernization by Jasper Johns and the Minimalist sculpture of Richard Serra. Mainly, however, they set up paradoxes about authenticity. Abstract Expressionist painting used to cause people to notice interestingly weathered sections of wall that seemed more real and spontaneous than the paintings. Now Douke gives us copies of the informal stuff that seem at once more precious and more convincing than reality itself.

Simultaneously, ceramics artist David Furman unveils a group of miniature tableaux depicting brick buildings in ruin. They are very much in a tradition established by Roland Reiss but have their own voice. We seem to see unpeopled dwellings that have been occupied by the neo-cave people survivors of some unspecified disaster. Interiors are strewn with rubble ranging from pop cans to bones, presumably human (Yum. Cannibalism & Pepsi).

Electronic circuits are hung up for art. Most affecting are empty, cracked swimming pools that recall a lost Eden of hedonism. This is Furman's most serious work despite leanings to Apocalyptikitsch and dogged, busy brick-at-a-time building. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to June 22.)

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