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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

February 13, 1987|SUZANNE MUCHNIC

Even when Daniel Douke was turning out Photo-Realist paintings of swimming pools, he was as interested in abstract patterns as in his ostensible subject matter. In subsequent trompe l'oeil replications of cardboard boxes and slabs of rusty metal, he has carried on his romance with abstract painting. Douke goes to incredible lengths to give himself an excuse to paint richly textured fields of color and subtle pattern.

In his latest show of 15 works, Douke continues to construct and paint acrylic-on-canvas panels that you would swear were heavy sheets of metal if they weren't so pretty. He gets every detail right: the rough-cut edges, welded seams, rusty pock marks, ragged scratches, swirling textures, bored holes and chalk notations. The only thing that looks unnatural is color, which has been heated up to true reds, bright yellows and turquoises, along with softer pastels. "Aragon Thaw," from 1984, recalls Douke's emulations of Cor-Ten steel of a couple of seasons ago, while newer pieces make themselves more and more at home in the territory of painting. Two of the showiest works, "To Be Announced" and "Trawsfyndd," have the character of Oriental landscapes, while the quieter "Crown Load" is part mystical atmosphere, part distressed material.

This year's construction coups are concave and convex panels, plus some angled surfaces and "welded" seams, but the real change is away from trompe l'oeil subtleties and toward bravura painting. Still, the tension between a precisely simulated object and runaway painting is what gives this work its edge--even if the only real surprise is that Douke manages to do this work year after year without running fallow. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to March 7.)

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