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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

February 28, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

Geometric abstraction is undergoing a significant critical revival these days, largely in response to the apparent aesthetic cul-de-sacs of both Post-Modernism and Neo-Expressionism. While Modernism, from Cezanne to Robert Ryman, has always attempted to explore the complexities inherent in "seeing," more recent revisionist thinking has evaded such formal uncertainties through a strategy of pluralism and wry pastiche.

British-born painter and critic Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe tackles such complexities head on, striving not for artificial equilibrium or an easy internal stability, but for visual discomfort and ambiguity. His deliberately composed collisions of geometric forms and clashing colors seem surprisingly benign at first glance. Yet they become increasingly difficult to "read" as we attempt to find a way in and discover a structural and narrative focus. This is because the works are about decentering, both within individual paintings and throughout the exhibit as a whole. Shapes and color fields in muted primaries tend to cluster toward the outer edges of the canvas, as if about to spill over into a neighboring work. Chromatic and spatial dissonances refuse to allow forms to gel. Our eye might simultaneously be caught by broad "landscapes" of black and white or impastoed areas of unstable depth that create a false sense of linear perspective.

The current work introduces even more dislocating elements, such as three-dimensional reliefs, asymmetrical diptych formats and enigmatic color similes, each triggering a multitude of subjective responses. The canvases also are concentrated in one side of the gallery, accentuating the sense of decentering while underlining the difficulty of formal synthesis in an unbalanced environment. Rather than exasperating or confusing the viewer, however, such devices succeed admirably in setting up a coherent and resonant tension, which is, after all, the essence of intelligent art. (Kuhlenschmidt/Simon, 9000 Melrose Ave., to March 15.)

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