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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

March 14, 1986|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

You have a devil of a time seeing the images in Troy Brauntuch's 18 pastel drawings, but the thing is that you really want to. His style is so seductive that his artworks seem like veiled beauties or exquisitely wrapped candies, and he makes you believe you can find buried treasure if only you squint as hard as the other people in the gallery. You can, but the discovery of silhouetted nudes, grand stairways, mountain peaks or boats in these fuzzy-edged, close-valued drawings is less revealing than the process of looking.

Brauntuch's darkly suggestive art is steeped in romantic tradition, with its heavy air of elegance, sumptuous beauty and intimations of decadence. Yet he updates romanticism's familiarities by shrouding it almost to the point of muteness. What's most interesting about these whispered works is that they prove how little visual information is needed to suggest a scenario or to inspire the invention of a narrative. Scant as they are, the velvety images reverberate with tales of midnight trysts and secret journeys.

In a couple of works, he slaps you out of this dream world--and subverts the depth of his pictures--by drawing abrupt outlines of flowers or figures on surfaces. Here again, it's not what he draws but the way he does it that determines interpretation. The relatively primitive outlines are rather like graffiti scrawled on the face of tradition, and they carry the weight of all that word implies: effrontery, subterfuge and political ambition. (Larry Gagosian Gallery, 510 N. Robertson Blvd., to April 5.)

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