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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

May 02, 1986|COLIN GARDNER

Michael Tang's mixed-media paintings are based on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), a Victorian priest, poet and artist whose works attempted to evoke the spiritual and sensual essence of nature. Tang attempts to create visual equivalents for the poet's linguistic strategies, drawing direct parallels between literary and painterly rhetoric. Thus each poem's rhythm, transient mental imagery and phonetic innovations have corresponding vocabulary and syntax in Tang's paintings--largely through expanding picture planes with such foreign materials as plexiglass, appliqued wood and branches, glitter and cloth.

This sounds promising in theory, but Tang completely undermines his enterprise through heavy-handed excesses of execution. Hopkins' basically allegorical poems, with their somewhat affected images of trapped skylarks, soaring falcons and sublime landscapes, have been translated into Neo-Expressionist exercises in self-indulgence. What was originally enigmatic becomes simplistically concrete; what were intended as romantic paeans to the transcendence of spirit have been rooted in the egotism of painting. Materials, rather than being metaphors or similes for textural nuance, resemble instead the overwrought bombast and surface fetishism usually associated with Julian Schnabel. (Eilat Gordin Gallery, 644 N. Robertson Blvd., to Wednesday.)

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