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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

May 23, 1986|SUZANNNE MUCHNIC

Up from the streets of East Los Angeles and smartly ensconced as the inaugural attraction of a chic new gallery, Gronk (Guglio Nicandro) is in a prickly position. He's not the first raw talent to be gentrified, nor is he as hard a case as some of the New York graffiti artists who switched from subway cars to canvases. He is educated and he clearly knows how to paint, but he is in danger of turning kick-in-the-ribs art into mean decor.

The title for the whole show of 22 paintings and pastels is "The Rescue Party," but there doesn't seem to be much hope of saving the civilization that populates Gronk's nightmares. Graphically powerful and intensely colorful, with provocative subject matter and juicy surfaces, his work provides a carload of gratification for people who want more than serene pleasure from art. There are problems, however: The show's centerpiece, a 25-foot wide three-panel canvas called "Illegal Landscape," is so impacted with parts of figures, barbed wire, bottles, zigzags and sprayed graffiti that it comes off as a dazzling spectacle rather than a meaningful painting. More troubling are a couple of thin, messy space-fillers and some gorgeously painted pieces that freeze his roiling gestural spaces and black outlines into a formula.

Still, there's a lot of intelligently directed energy here, along with proof that Gronk can deliver images strong enough to linger after the blitz of color and fancy brushwork fades from memory. One example is "Mother and Father," depicting a flashy, tough woman (gussied up in a strapless, chartreuse evening gown) and an anonymous man with a bone dangling between them. Another is "Competition 2," in which a woman seems to be falling backward in an ominous space. (Saxon-Lee Gallery, 7527 Beverly Blvd., to June 14.)

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