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THE ART GALLERIES

Downtown

April 04, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

Gillian Theobald's paintings usually focus on such cataclysmic events as storms, volcanoes and tornadoes. She freezes them like a stylized movie still to suggest archetypal psychological states via stripped down and easily identifiable visual metaphors. Using a dark palette of black, browns and blues in uniformly worked enamel, Theobald attempts to evoke a potential unleashing of natural forces by both compositional and gestural containment, as if both the paintings' borders and Theobald's introverted sense of the sublime were about to explode in a torrent of physical and psychic energy.

Her latest works are largely concerned with water, whether gushing through narrow gorges, pouring down into enclosed mountain pools, or escaping through dam spillways. Any sense of kinesis is completely undermined by Theobald's awkward homogenization of surface (shiny yet lifeless) and, although this is obviously deliberate, it makes for extremely static landscapes that tend to become mere exercises in color and economical brushwork rather than catalysts for introspection or conceptual exploration.

In the upstairs gallery, Laddie John Dill presents a new series of multicolored monoprints combining woodcut and lithography. Dill has superimposed his habitual prism-like wedge shape onto what appears to be a mountain/glacial landscape, creating double images that reinforce the pictorial surface while breaking it down into geometrically based perspectives. Primary and rust colors seep in and out of the wood-grain backdrop, either blurring or sharpening lines to accentuate topography or form. The overall result is that of a rugged landscape framed by a theatrical proscenium or multi-perspective viewfinder.

The repetition of the image and Dill's tendency to rework the same ideas through various media and series makes for rather stale and predictable viewing. Dill is capable of fresh insights and an aesthetic edge, but he seem to be completely bogged down in recycling his own decorative imprint. (Cirrus Gallery, 542 S. Alameda St.; Theobald to May 10, Dill to April 12.)

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