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THE ART GALLERIES

Wilshire Center

July 10, 1987|KRISTINE McKENNA

It's a venerated dramatic principle that a loaded gun hanging on the wall in the first act must go off in the last. L.A. artist Gronk defies that convention with an ambitious installation that sets you up for a slam-bang payoff that is never delivered. Titled "Bone of Contention," the show involves drawings, paintings, video, and a massive mural, all of which are interesting enough in their own right, but fail to interlock in any meaningful way.

What, for instance, are we to make of this setup? A huge, predominantly black-and-white mural painted with the raw bravado of the Mexican muralists serves as a backdrop for a video monitor playing a cheesy film called "Burlesque," featuring Red Buttons, Phyllis Diller, and lots of topless dancers. The film sound is turned down and what we hear instead is a beautiful piece of music by Holger Czukay titled "Persian Love Song." The chaotically jumbled imagery in the mural is of the "urban jungle" variety, the people in the film flounce around like fools, and the music trips along in a sprightly fashion. Gronk fails to provide the vital puzzle piece that would allow all this to form a coherent pattern.

The "bone" theme dominates Gronk's paintings, most of which feature bones and depict images of tension, deception and aggression. Using personal relationships as a metaphor for global politics, he fashions flat, brightly colored figurative pictures seasoned with a generous pinch of black humor. People lurk about in the ominous nocturne that dominates these pictures. On the other hand, drawings of oddly grouped objects--a hand puppet, a wishbone and a cocktail glass, for instance--have the lightness and surreal whimsicality of Saul Steinberg or Robert Cumming.

A multimedia artist who staged politically subversive art performances throughout the '70s and '80s as one of four founding members of the collective known as Asco, Gronk is certainly one of the more talented artists hereabouts, and there's an undeniable richness and intelligence to this show. It is, however, so sorely lacking in focus that the final gestalt is impenetrably oblique. (Saxon-Lee Gallery, 7525 Beverly Blvd., to August 8).

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