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The Valley

December 11, 1987|MARLENA DONOHUE

When William Blake wrote of the tiger's fearful symmetry, he conjured the smell of distilled animal energy, ferocious and exquisitely innocent. Michael Hughes paints a menagerie including unconvincing wolves in combat, a more interesting exotic little monkey nestled in broody ground, two silly bears and a tiger brandishing his canines. Hughes might be trying to tap Blake's notion, but we never sense believable savagery or innocence.

Hughes also does small-scale paintings of horned, pointed-tongued medieval gargoyles that look more like frozen, caricatured Kabuki masks than anything really raw or demonic. When his art works, as it does in a painting of a stealthy fox treading through a mute snowy field, Hughes' style has a refreshing primitive, unprocessed quality. Too often the work vacillates between being staged and formally rough around the edges. (Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, to Dec. 31.)

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