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The Art Galleries

La Cienega Area

September 18, 1987|MARLENA DONOHUE

Sculptor Orleonok Pitkin moves toward a firmer artistic direction with wall-hung and free-standing painted wood constructions. Neither sufficiently formal or allusive to give a clear reading, his abstract works of '83 rang flat. Now Pitkin uses simplified cut-out and wall-mounted contours to suggest recognizable objects: a flat lollipop tree seems to sidle up to an equally abbreviated skyscraper; a lighthouse sends out beams that look like a bow tie. He's most engaging when he lets objects move in three dimensions and gives them the fragile, high-contrast simplicity of pre-rational memories. Overly poetic abstractions like "Marriage" pale alongside the impish, mysterious shorthand used in "Tree" and "Staff."

Philip Ayers' hyper-real suburban scenes painted in oil provide an excellent complement to Pitkin. Ayers divides his canvas into compartments of reality. On a lower floor of one building a yuppie party winds down; just above it, but seemingly in another world, two working women execute numbed grooming rituals for the 9-to-5 grind. At the bottom of each scene Ayers uses the same acute verisimilitude to paint basements cluttered with detritus--old appliances, heaps of abandoned junk, even stagnant water. The debris churns with more life than the poor, paralyzed folks who discard it.

Ayers lets us peek into these scenes through cut-away sections of dry wall and dusty cobwebs. This idea could get very corny, but technical skill and expressive self-control deliver powerful Magritte-ish metaphors for the aimless obsessions that seem to fuel so much of contemporary life. (Koplin Gallery, 8225 1/2 Santa Monica Blvd., to Oct. 3.)

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