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THE ART GALLERIES

The Valley

September 04, 1987|CATHY CURTIS

Shirley Glass' women always seem to be tensely re-creating their exterior selves to pass muster for an unseen observer. These "Ladies in Waiting," as the paintings from the current series are called, deck themselves out in stylish clothes but never succeed in hiding their pain.

In one work, three women on a bench are obviously posing for a camera, each one falling back on an idiosyncratic gesture (a hand hovering near the mouth, a tight-lipped smile, an index finger escaping an automatically clenched fist). Above, two male heads bob up in a grayish-blue sea. Are they part of the scene? Figments of memory? It's hard to say. Glass' curiously untethered backgrounds sometimes disintegrate into distracting patches of color. But they do yield some bizarre flotsam, like the gas mask peering out of a vase next to a vampy woman in a green pouf dress or the pinkish skull lurking near a sad-faced woman with a sprig of white peony.

Glass' heavily impastoed, bluntly outlined figures embody a sliding scale of social acceptability or even believability--from a model in an extravagant dress and long gloves to a woman in dark glasses whose left arm ends in a shocking flipper or a proud blond whose companion is a nude, multicolored guy wearing heels.

What they all share is a clearly observed protective gestural vocabulary, from the model's tilted head to the blond's upraised chin and pursed bow lips. (Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, to Sept. 29.)

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