Probably the best thing about Steve Jones' watercolors of restaurant interiors is that he doesn't make technique an issue. That attitude won't win him points with the National Watercolor Society, but it does focus attention on more interesting matters. A dozen paintings of casual eateries--Philippe's, Gorky's and Joe Jost's--present themselves as an expressionistic update of Photo-Realism.
His mundane subject matter is familiar, but instead of executing gleaming surfaces with clinical precision, he gives us passing moments--in and out of focus. His juxtaposition of sharp and blurry images (replicating pictures shot at a slower speed than some of the movement in them) makes his debt to the camera obvious. Some of his subjects are cropped or so fuzzy that they become as abstract as things seen through peripheral vision.
Jones knows how to handle a difficult medium and he has developed an attitude about representation, but he hasn't resolved the emotional tone of his work. Vivid, warm tones and folksy settings make the watercolors seem rather cozy, but they also toy with the alone-together themes of Edward Hopper. It seems that Jones hasn't decided whether to get involved or keep his distance, which leaves us feeling uncertain about his intentions. (Koplin Gallery, 8225 1/2 Santa Monica Blvd., to Jan. 17.)