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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

December 13, 1985|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

Not long ago, Fulvio Testa's romantic watercolors of landscapes and still lifes would have attracted polite yawns at best; at worst, angry charges of backsliding. Now that we've been primed to reconsider romantic representation, the young Italian's art is finding an appreciative audience. He debuts here with work that heads off in two directions: sparkling, jewel-like views of craggy hills that catch light in every crevice, and relatively murky, broadly-drawn compositions.

In the sharply delineated landscapes, he uses crisp, dark line to accent tumultuous geology, recalling the moods of both Western romanticism and Chinese painting. His brownish still lifes (reduced to a few flat shapes of slightly different values) and window-view landscapes (with an equivocal space seen through framing devices) are strongly tied to modern consciousness. Testa seems to be sorting out his priorities and trying to have it both ways as he engages in a sensitive struggle.

Concurrently, Michael Maglich reappears after several years absence with a show of strange little figures called "Desert Nudes." Made of creosote, cottonwood root, devil's claw, paper and acrylic, they appear as withered relics of some prehistoric society. Hanging in a straight line around a small gallery, they first appear to be identical except for color. In fact, they vary in the arch of their backs, the degree that their stick legs are drawn up into a fetal position, and in sexual attributes. Otherwise, all are skinny, hipless creatures with bags over their heads and a long slit where their eyes should be.

Maglich's art has long been inspired by Southwestern Indian culture, but in the past he has pulled off humorous mergers of the ancient and the contemporary--making hubcaps look like old pottery, for example. The "Desert Nudes' " connection to our culture is more subtle but, knowing Maglich's past work, one suspects that the headgear comes from Darth Vader and the silvery slickness of some surfaces from industrial material. What the figures lack in associative clarity, they make up for in weirdness that reaches back into some niche of memory. (Jan Turner Gallery, 8000 Melrose Ave., to Jan. 4.)

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