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The Galleries

La Cienega Area

November 20, 1987|CATHY CURTIS

Bay Area artist Carl Dern does cheerfully dizzy painted metal sculpture that becomes all too easy to anticipate. You know it will rest on a tiny stand with cylindrical wheels, and its off-balance juggling act will probably include a jagged circle, a small wad dangling from an arched wire, a ball and a fringe of sticks. But every now and then he finds some fresher ingredients--sail and boomerang shapes in "Bedtime Story Or," long, splay-footed "legs" in "Tango Diabolique"--that revive the amusing unexpectedness of the funk tradition.

Some of the patinaed bronze pieces assume more portentous, Italianate airs. Without added color or higgledy-piggledy clutter, a ladder missing its middle rungs or a clawlike shape takes on an elemental starkness. Dern's two sculptural personae merge in a "Chair Figure" with a trapped humanoid extending his arms to create part of the framework, as if thrusting them into the stocks of Pilgrim days.

Dern's big charcoal drawings--ranging in theme from sketchily fake industrial diagrams and hulking hardware fixtures to a dreamy landscape of forked trees and a doughnut moon--sometimes lean too hard on Guston. Inconclusive so far, they may need more time to hibernate. (Gallery 454 North, 454 N. Robertson Blvd., to Dec. 4.)

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