Renee Petropoulos' new paintings mark a breakthrough from the Baroque boxiness that dogged earlier work. Gone are suffocating decorative indulgences that led some to compare her work to Hundertwasser. There is still an annoying predilection for expressive overkill, but Petropoulos has loosened up her compositional style, allowing surreal forms to float, overlap and conduct a dialogue with each other rather than simply reinforce a predetermined structural package.
The resulting ambiguity serves to blur easy distinctions between representation and abstraction. Using boldly rendered, dark primaries, Petropoulos depicts what appear to be hanging baskets, pots, bowls, arches, rectangular color fields and organic forms in dream-like flights of fancy. The trouble with this approach is that, without a strong conceptual framework, it tends to come across as a routine study in the sensual possibilities of paint. Petropoulos puts the painterly vocabulary through its paces without really coming up with anything original, either in terms of a psychological landscape, or a formal exercise in seeing. Here is the case of a painter who grows more technically assured with each showing, but now needs to find something significant to say. (Rosamund Felsen Gallery, 669 N. La Cienega Blvd., to Dec. 20.)