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THE ART GALLERIES

La Cienega Area

February 27, 1987|COLIN GARDNER

Preparatory sketches and autonomous studies have been a popular collector's item since the Renaissance, prized for the insight they provide into the artist's methods and the mechanics of the creative process. Today, given Post-Modernism's concern with revealing layers of significance rather than accepting representational language at face value, the drawing is more vital than ever.

This loose premise governs an exhibit of works on paper by more than 60 artists, grandiosely titled "The Great Drawing Show 1587-1987." The 400-year time span is misleading, however. Works by five Italian draftsmen from the late 16th and early 17th centuries--highlighted by Carletto Caliari's delicate "Study of Two Hands" from the workshop of Veronese and Luca Cambiaso's lyrical rendition of "Venus and Cupid Mourning the Death of Adonis"--simply provide a homogeneous, linear counterpoint to the contemporary material's innate eclecticism.

Here, the quality is extremely uneven, ranging from the empty doodlings of Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and Sandro Chia, to works by Richard Artschwager, Sol Lewitt, Ed Ruscha and Frida Kahlo that successfully complement many of their best works in other media. Perhaps the strongest "group" statement revolves around the reductive geometries of Brice Marden, Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin and Eva Hesse, while Cy Twombly, Anselm Kiefer and Mark Tansey express a unique signature regardless of format.

Although the show's incoherence makes a curatorial statement impossible, it is this aesthetic "dissonance" that provides most of its appeal. Because the viewer is deliberately encouraged to bounce around from one stylistic pocket to another, the exhibit avoids much of the ambivalent pluralism that haunts most group shows. Instead it exploits the very characteristics that drawing is supposed to celebrate--intuition and fluidity. (Michael Kohn Gallery, 313 N. Robertson Blvd., to March 13.)

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