Julie Belnick has broken the restraints of her usual enigmatic renderings of brooms and buckets in stark interiors and moved toward the sensual. Working in pastel and acrylic on paper, she vacillates between representation and abstraction, suggesting in part the skeletal structures of vertebrae and ribs or fossilized organisms emerging and receding from amorphous grounds, alluding perhaps to cycles of ripening and decay. The work's strength comes from tension between improvisation and control. Its weakness lies in its attempts at metaphorical allusions to psychological states without questioning either the dubious language of such metaphors or the loaded rhetoric of painting itself.
Cheri Pann's small drawings of reclining, winged female nudes ("Angels") and frontal self-portraits ("Masks") opt for anther kind of equivocation. By pushing similar compositions through different permutations of color, texture and mark-making, Pann draws attention to the dynamics of stylistic rendering, so that figures can be by turns sensuous, assertive, reserved or vulnerable according to choice of palette and gestural vocabulary. Unfortunately, this tends to create a feeling of aesthetics by formula, of creating an academic exercise where ambiguity is a contrived goal for its own sake. (Art Space, 10550 Santa Monica Blvd., to Nov. 29.)