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THE ART GALLERIES

Wilshire Center

September 25, 1987|CATHY CURTIS

A ghostly gray battalion winds through lacy white trees. Wispy turquoise figures empty buckets of liquid into a vibrating red forest. A Bugs Bunny-like red demon hangs out with a marshmallowy Pierrot figure.

This is the new mannerist art of Roberto Barni, an Italian in his late 40s who preceded Clemente, Chia and Cucchi into the thickets of the trans-avant-garde.

Compared to his younger compatriots, Barni offers a gentle, bemused vision. His blindfolded heroes and shadowy multitudes are all stuck within the cliches of myth. Chariots drawn by rearing horses, huge ladders mounted by faceless brigades, a weightless ship packed with angelic and devilish wraiths--all have the insubstantial quality of dreams.

Barni combines a loose, sometimes downright flaccid brushstroke and a clotted effect that makes paint look like congealed syrup. His soft, feathery whites and the sweet landscapes that undercut the bombast seem related to the work of fellow Florentine artists working some 500 years ago. (Jack Rutberg Gallery, 357 N. La Brea Ave., to Oct. 31.)

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