Mel Rubin's painted ceramic wall reliefs depict the landscape and architecture of Los Angeles from the perspective of a transplanted Philadelphian. Rubin is fascinated by the Southland's brilliant light, pluralistic architectural styles and visual hodge-podge of street signs, billboards and freeway culture. All this is rendered in cut-out tableaux--flattened, three-dimensional reliefs that pay meticulous attention to detail (a Max Headroom poster, a Carson Productions logo on a TV screen) yet make little attempt at realism or documentary-like authenticity.
The results are very much like a sun-bleached Edward Hopper scenario, where unpopulated icons of L.A.'s past and present are isolated into benign miniatures. Rubin's city is all pleasant surfaces and airy expanses. Rather than being an interpretation of "reality," it is instead a sweetened surrogate. As a result, the work comes across as far too palatable--an isolated idyll. It lacks any quality that would allow the viewer access into its mise en scene , where aesthetic statements could be questioned and culture analyzed rather than simply consumed. (Jan Baum, 170 S. La Brea Ave., to Nov. 27.)