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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

July 18, 1986|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

Nancy Reese has been a rather shadowy figure on the local art scene, one who seems to labor for years in her studio and finally emerge with something amazing.

Now she shows eight large oils that are as hip and intriguing as anything recently seen in our galleries. Drawing from the romantic landscape tradition, they squeeze the last drop of blood out of the notion of the sublime. This is hardly an original idea, but it fits Reese's sensibility and she's not afraid to bend it her way.

Using landscape as backdrop, Reese may set a bowl of fuzzy peaches or a pouty kid's face into a spectacular natural setting or simply luxuriate in a formal garden. In "Moments of Love and Battle," she pulls back a red velvet stage curtain, revealing a hot sunset. "Intersection of Two Worlds" overlays blue-and-white peaks with another set of mountains rendered in black-and-white frozen shadows.

The only work that doesn't involve a landscape is "Guardian," in which a disheveled white robe takes on the haunting presence of a person. With an aura where the head should be, it makes one think of Jim Dine's bathrobes gone religious. But it's no good being snide about these paintings.

Grandiose, spectral and, in a way, all style, Reese's new work pushes painting conventions to the limit. What's better is that she seems to working out a dilemma of passion. It's a refreshing change from the programmatic cynicism that usually dogs this sort of questioning. (Larry Gagosian Gallery, 510 N. Robertson Blvd., to Aug. 13.)

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