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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

October 24, 1986|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

In an age when "What's new?" seems the most burning question, Martha Alf's art is notable for its stability. A major change for her is a new brand of colored pencil: Derwent, an English product that lends her most recent still lifes more softly blended tones and a more ethereal quality. Or a new technique: hand-coloring photocopied drawings, which produces a relatively hard texture, brighter colors and bolder images of Alf's familiar pears and apples.

Essentially, though, Alf is busy being consistent in a show of 41 drawings that stretch over five years. Her work continues to be about transcendence as subjects rise above what is actually depicted. Ordinary fruits and vegetables acquire human characteristics; together they establish recognizable relationships. An apartment building rooftop becomes a landscape. Tall objects on a window sill are rather like sentries, which relate to boulders in drawings of Stonehenge.

Alf accomplishes these feats by modeling luminous objects in mysterious, atmospheric space, generally bringing them to life in a field of parallel, diagonal lines. The subtle news in the main gallery, where recent drawings infuse the space with lavender light, is an increased sense of vulnerability. If the fruits depicted weren't mostly pears, I'd say they have the consistency of peach fuzz. Never have mere fruits seem more fragile or mortal. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to Nov. 15.)

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