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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

May 31, 1985|WILLIAM WILSON

As if everybody weren't already sufficiently unnerved by both art and reality, Leonard Koscianski hypes the jitters with truly scary paintings. Their theme is primal violence lurking just under the placid surface of suburban life. We see modest neighborhoods in the feverish colors of summer nights, undisturbed by the fact that a monstrous fish is pouncing on a dragonfly the size of an eagle. Birds fly in formation away from a burning field as if they were warplanes that had ignited the blaze.

Works like "Ganymede" self-destruct on their mythic pretensions. The worst shivers come from "Jugular" and "Nocturne," pictures of a pair of dogs in lethal combat. They might be mates, and stand in stark contrast to muzzy middle-class visions of Man's Best Friend. Surely they symbolize humans as irredeemably and "naturally" vicious.

Koscianski's work has the shock value of a well-made horror movie--and probably about as much depth. The work is convincing, with its bulky forms and nasty glass-shard shapes, but about as thoughtful as one of those hawkish TV nature shows and more cynical than Sir Edwin Landseer. Its graphic-art flash may not have much staying power.

Since the last time I visited this awkwardly located gallery, an annex has been opened upstairs across the alley. Its commodious but rambling space may contribute to the difficulty of getting a handle on the work of Michael Levine. He seems to be following in the much larger footsteps of Jean Dubuffet. Levine paints blocky, childlike cityscapes to which he attempts to lend substance by adding fabric, chain, barbed wire and whatnot. Results might be either ominous or charming, but at the moment they are neither. The stuff is so uncommitted that it feels like the decorative texture of a not particularly distinguished quilt. (Karl Bornstein Gallery, 1662 12th St., to June 27.)

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