Cynda Valle titled her series of new paintings "Magic," but it's hard to say if she's referring to benign sorcery or malevolent witchcraft. Valle's portraits of well-heeled Americans in hallucinatory circumstances are surreal and absurd, but most of all they're creepy. We see two men on their knees in a pastoral setting, embracing on a floating magic carpet; a pair of punk temptresses at the base of a tree where slithers a snake; a two-headed woman surrounded by the props of a suburban Hydra's daily life--cosmetics.
Painting in a style reminiscent of Eric Fischl, Valle ladles in an extra layer of meaning by executing small areas--the snake, for instance--with appliques of sequins. Valle is a skillful enough painter that she could easily dispense with sequined red herrings and still have her work come off as mystifying.
Also on view are Dorothy Braudy's paintings of the middle class recreating in Santa Barbara, Greece and Marina del Rey. Awash in the kind of striped light created by slatted awnings or venetian blinds, Braudy's subjects while away the sun-dappled hours at outdoor cafes, on sun decks, in lush gardens. Like the characters in novels by John Updike, Braudy's people appear to be intelligent and affluent, yet an undercurrent of dissatisfaction seems to tug at them even while they're at play. (Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, to Nov. 29.)