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THE ART GALLERIES

Santa Monica

September 25, 1987|Suzanne Muchnic

Applying his own twist to the Pygmalion myth, Walter Gabrielson brings his paintings to life as three-dimensional sculptures, reliefs and cutouts. The subjects are all new, but the breakthrough seems so logical that it's as if the figures who spoke such eloquent body language in recent paintings have burst into sculptural life.

These painted wood people carry out activities absurd and piquant in narratives based on places as specific as the Tail o' the Pup hot dog stand or as generic as public transport stations. Human traffic on an apartment staircase rises in social echelons from a furtive thief to a middle-class shopper to a Chinese lord. In other works, a courtroom scene emulates a bullfight, a hot-pink cruiser rules a galaxy of high-rises and a couple of kachinas enact a tense "First Date."

One of our canniest social observers and wittiest commentators, Gabrielson is an expressionist who heightens emotion with exaggerated gestures and seductive color. His work is great fun to see but remarkably free from the sort of detail that would make it merely entertaining illustration.

While Gabrielson exhibits a wide range of behavior in slice-of-life sets, painter Leonard Koscianski hones his tunnel vision of violence in ominous thickets or on lawns of toylike neighborhoods. Trouble is, his running dogs have been snarling the same snarl for so long now that it's difficult to see his work as more than a formula. Koscianski just gets better at setting down perfect brushstrokes on immaculate canvases.

He does, however, relieve boredom by throwing a naked baby and some evil red birds to the dogs and interspersing the usual forests with urban settings (familiar from his earlier work). Now if he would just do something about that one-note emotional tone. (Karl Bornstein Gallery, 1662 12th St., to Oct. 9.)

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