It's worth a trip to Mark Stock's show of paintings and pastels just to see how colorful white can be. His "Dead Social Lion," an elegant corpse that recalls Manet's "Dead Toreador," is stretched out in a white tux that has a greenish light emanating from folds of fabric. A ballerina being propositioned by a trumpet player wears a white tutu that could double as a pastel flower garden. A lovesick young man who collapses against a tree after reading a mysterious note sports casual whites infused with lavender, green and yellow, while a blond woman waiting on a tree stump is clad in a soft dress that only pretends to be white as it radiates color.
Stock is right to lavish such attention on white, the color of choice for characters who personify perfection, romanticize death or glorify the purity of love. A musician may leer at a proposed conquest, but he is crushed by her Dear John letter, and other subjects are devastated by love gone wrong or unrequited. They retreat to the forest to languish and die, but they never, ever dirty their luminous clothing.
This is, after all, intensely theatrical art that borrows backdrops from ballet and applies to Central Casting for sunsets and devastating heroes. You have to be in the mood for such romantic themes, but the painting itself is glorious. The same can be said for a group of pastels that treat the same subjects but don't function as studies for the large oils. In a milieu of paintings that look as if they were cranked out in 15 minutes--and can be read in 15 seconds--Stock stands out as an astonishingly adroit artist who cares about such old-fashioned skills as drawing well and telling a story. (Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., to May 23.)